Basketball phenom Brittney Griner has been the focus of a media blitz recently—and for good reasons. Within the same five-day period, she was named the number one WNBA draft pick, she signed with the Phoenix Mercury, then signed a major contract with Nike, and finally, came out publicly.
The weeks since haven’t slowed down for Griner. But just as important to her as practicing with her team for the upcoming season has been her commitment to speaking out about gay acceptance and bullying.
During her recent GLAAD awards speech (in the clip above), she encouraged gay kids to live authentically, even offering her personal assistance if they ever needed help. “Find me on Twitter. DM me...We will find help…Everything will be okay.”
While Griner joins other out gay athletes, like NBA player Jason Collins and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, she reported that she was never really in the closet to begin with; Griner came out to her mom at the age of 14.
But she recently revealed that it was during her college career at Baylor University that she was told to keep her sexuality quiet.
The athlete explained to ESPNw, “It was a recruiting thing,” she said. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it [homosexuality], people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.”
Now that she’s gone pro, Griner says her mission is to “help all live in the truth.” And hopefully, also win some basketball games. Today, the dunking superstar makes her WNBA debut as the Phoenix Mercury take on the Chicago Sky.
With her impressive above-the-rim game, expectations for Griner are high; her supporters predict she’ll radically alter the league, bringing in a new wave of fans and revenue. For anyone who’s seen her highlight reel, those predictions are not far-fetched.
But even in the midst of all that pressure, Griner’s ultimate goal feels much more personal. She’s become dedicated to the It Gets Better Project to help gay and lesbian kids survive harassment and bullying. And as she recently wrote, “It’s my job now to, I hope, be a light who inspires others.”