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WNBA NOT FREE FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PLAGUE

The dream couple that was supposed to bring the WNBA out of the closet has turned into a PR nightmare for the league .

The dream couple that was supposed to bring the WNBA out of the closet has turned into a PR nightmare for the league . Or it should. Or would if anybody truly gave a genuine damn about the cultural and mental health of womens basketball.

All week long radio and TV analysts have been feasting on Floyd Mayweathers multiple domestic violence convictions as he prepares for the fight of his life against Pac Man in what is billed as one of boxings “all-time anticipated matchups.” Instead of focusing on Floyds glistening 47-0 record, the majority of the convo was about how Floyd’s behavior ties into Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and the incidents of domestic violence and the culture of aggression towards women that exist in the NFL.

The analysts, journalists and experts spent most of their remaining time trying to convince people not to cheer for Floyd because he’s a “bad guy.”  Their position was that because Pac Man was a boxing politician, that somehow makes him …honest and good? (Pardon me while I pause to guffaw). It’s the Devil vs. Angel polarization model we discussed a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Brittney Griner, the 24-year-old WNBA superstar and WNBA player Glory Johnson were collared for their involvement in a domestic violence incident inside the Phoenix, Arizona home they recently purchased. Several people inside the home tried to break up the fight before police were called and eventually took them in on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct owing to an alleged domestic violence incident


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Police reports indicate that Johnsons sister called Goodyear police Wednesday afternoon to report that Johnson and Griner were in the living room throwing things at each other.


Griner and Johnsons four-to-six-minute altercation which left Griner with a laceration on her left wrist and a tooth mark on the middle finger of her right hand after it ended up in Glory Johnsons mouth, as the AP put it comes at a bad time for the league. This is the same Griner who won an NCAA Championship, dunks in WNBA games and was honored at the White House by President Obama in 2012.

Havent heard a peep from Prez Bam on this one.

When police arrived at the home on 133rd Drive, Johnsons sister, Judy, told officers she was at a loss for what to do because of the way the two were fighting, so she called police.


We couldnt get them pulled apart, Judy Johnson said, according to a police report.

Griner told officers that she and Johnson were having relationship issues and that they had just purchased their first home together.


Wheres all of the public outrage for this incident of intense violence?

As is often  the pattern in domestic violence situations (Im just going by all of the expert testimony and opinion that was featured on numerous TV and radio shows during the height of the Ray Rice incident) Johnson and Griner have already reconciled and will proceed with the wedding as planned and are moving past the episode, which made national headlines.

On Friday night, Johnson made the couples first public comments about the matter, writing in a photo caption on Instagram:

WERE OK! #brittneygriner and I are home, injury-free, and still wedding planning! We know we must set better examples, even during the most trying times, and we are EXTREMELY sorry for all the negative attention we brought to ourselves, our family, and the league. We are actively seeking help in order to be BETTER. Thanks for all the Love, Support, and Prayers that were sent our way.

Johnson added the hashtags #WorkInProgress and #NobodysPerfect to the message.



Hold up…


A lot of overzealous and angry people said Janay Rice was stupid and disillusioned and brainwashed for staying with Ray. Lets see what kind of public advice Glory Johnson or Griner get moving forward. So far its been nothing but a downplayed, love fest of fan support. 

While the NFL, NBA and Money Mayweather get all of the attention and criticism regarding domestic violence issues and player behavior (and rightfully so), the WNBA is showing that its female players are not immune from the problem.

Women lose control and abuse their spouses/fianc too. It’s a people thing, not a man beats women thing, but the incidents involving WNBA players are simply not covered as closely as those involving high profile male athletes.

Who even knows that Jantel Lavender of the Los Angeles Sparks was hit with a restraining order by her ex-boyfriend in 2011 after a fight; that former WNBA player Deanna Tweety Nolan was arrested for allegedly assaulting her wife in 2012; and in 2013, former WNBA player Chamique Holdsclaw pleaded guilty to assault after her girlfriend, another WNBA player, reported Holdsclaw shot at her SUV.


Holdsclaw has since rebounded from what was initially thought to be a game-over type of situation for the Queens basketball legend. The Shadow League covered her incident in a March 2013 piece, A Dream Deferred. Despite the use of a firearm in a domestic violence dispute (a level of violence that far exceeds Ray Rices indiscretions) the entire ordeal never gained any steam and was litigated without the burden of cameras and social media hounding. .

That doesnt make the problem any less troubling and it certainly proves that domestic violence isnt simply a heterosexual problem.

Intimate partner violence among LGBT couples is also a huge problem that gets considerably less attention, Jamilah King of Take Part wrote in a piece called Women Pro Athletes Have a Domestic Violence Problem Too . . . . Last summer, they (Griner and Johnson) announced their engagement on Instagram. But as the details of this weeks ordeal emerge, the couple also shows that intimate partner violence within same-sex relationships is a problem that must be confronted.

Interesting. Maybe this is learned or forced behavior considering that some perpetrators of these incidents are women who are taking on a masculine role in these relationships. Straight right hands and bloody-fist brawls with nails and hair littering the floor sounds like a 1980’s mud fight in a biker bar. Call me old fashioned but I prefer a different style when it comes to women. My Mom always taught me that women were the calming influence and men were crazy and often jealous and out of their minds, especially with a woman they really dug.


Should we be more accepting and understanding of Griners actions because shes still a woman and therefore predisposed to being more emotionally-driven? Or is this kind of expressive violence an indication of women adopting a mans aggression in order to live out a desired sexuality thats not compatible with who they are genetically?  


And to the heart of the matter, is this becoming a problem in the WNBA ?

Here is the WNBAs statement on the incident: We are aware of the incident involving Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson and are working with the Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa Shock organizations to obtain more information.

As you can see, the League didnt have much to say on the issue. Most officials are just kind of vexed that the first WNBA royal wedding which was supposed to be a watershed moment for the lesbian and gay community is now marred by a nasty, bloody, violent and COMMON case of domestic abuse. And its not a clear-cut battered woman’s issue.

Maybe the WNBA should bring in some outside enforcers as the NFL did, raise the penalty for such incidents and initiate a division specifically to handle domestic violence problems.

Maybe the WNBA should be required to hire a crisis team who will be regulating the behavior of the players and offer some psychological counseling and social abuse and sensitivity training to a league that seems to be experiencing a cultural decay of its own.



Regardless, we should all recognize that domestic violence is an extremely serious issue, one that has aggressors and victims of both genders.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He began working in major newspapers in 1995 and has covered a cornucopia of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

Gamble has covered World Series, Super Bowls, NBA and MLB All-Star Games, Final Fours, World Cup, NASCAR events and done hundreds of exclusive interviews over the years. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.