When news broke on Thursday that Brittney Griner and her fiancée, Glory Johnson, had been arrested for a domestic incident, it sparked the following thoughtful exchange among several espnW writers about the various complicated tentacles to the story.
How do you cover such a complex issue -- breaking news about domestic violence between two women who are both active athletes, are stars of their respective teams and are engaged to each other?
How about a discussion about whether society does (and should?) view same-sex domestic violence differently from incidents between a man and woman? Obviously it would have to involve a look at WNBA policy and suspension expectations, as well.
There's something to say about how differently we, as a society, view altercations between same-sex couples. People often presume a specific power dynamic within male-female couples. Like, the man is "stronger and more dominant." So between same-sex couples we assume that somehow it's a "fair" fight -- in most cases, anyway. But let's not ignore that people seem to be casting Griner in the role of the "man" in this relationship. She identifies as a woman. So why is that happening exactly?
Intimate partner violence is often assumed to be a nonissue within the LGBT community. The absence of awareness and lack of resources seem to create an environment of silence that hurts everyone, including LGBT people. The takeaway here is that nobody, of any gender, should be resolving issues with violence, regardless of power or gender dynamics.
My overarching thinking on this is that the WNBA needs to investigate and impose discipline once the aggressor is determined -- just like any interpersonal violence. Griner (as well as Johnson) needs to be aware of her platform and her status.
You're right -- first and foremost, this is about personal accountability. If it turns out Brittney Griner's and/or Glory Johnson's behavior crossed a line, each should be suspended/punished in a manner that's appropriate. As of Thursday night, the WNBA would say only that it was looking into the situation.
But does this mean she is representative of a larger cultural issue? The Hope Solo arrest, and now this one, is an easy way for people to say, "See? Women commit domestic violence, too." And that's true in the sense that yes, it does happen. But it feels like some people want to use incidents involving female athletes to offset those involving male athletes. Or that if we (media/society) treat this Griner incident any differently, it's evidence that male athletes have gotten an unfair shake, instead of it being evidence of an entirely different set of circumstances.
Isn't the coverage on this, along with Solo, in line with the spotlight female athletes normally receive? That is to say, the sports media leads with male athletes every day of the year, so of course a male athlete accused of DV would lead the news. Female athletes almost never lead the sports news, so why would it make sense for a female athlete accused of DV to lead the news? When you look at it proportionally, the coverage seems pretty consistent. Yet, even so, some people -- and maybe just folks on Twitter -- seem to be suggesting that women are "getting away with something."
We'll see what happens with BG and the WNBA. But the tone around female athletes who are accused of DV is that they're somehow "getting away with something." That's what troubles me about this.
Yes, I am seeing that on Twitter. I know it's just a few people who don't seem to understand (or care) that Day 1 coverage of most DV cases is hesitant and about waiting on facts. With cases like those of Floyd Mayweather, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice et al., many of the facts have been rehashed over and over. In those cases, we had a pretty good idea of what happened.
Plus, women's sports, including the WNBA, never get the coverage of men's sports -- particularly the NFL -- so to somehow expect this case, on Day 1, mind you, to get the same response from the media as say, Ray Rice's, is absurd.
I think it's perfectly fine -- and accurate -- to say that we don't yet know much about this incident, and what happened will certainly determine the punishment for one or both of them. So yes, just as we expect of male athletes, if guilt is found (legally or the facts overwhelmingly point to a wrong having been done), then a suspension is called for.
We have to ask what we are reacting to. Is it just that women can be arrested for DV? Is it to address the trolls who say we don't care about violent women? Right now, all we have is an arrest and a few details that could lead us anywhere. The ideas we have -- no one should commit violent acts; Griner and Johnson should be aware of their platform -- are so flat. My take is that all leagues should have a policy and process, and I'm not sure whether the WNBA does. So it's hard to be laudatory or critical.
I worry that it feels like we're concerned with getting out there with some sort of take just because we do so much good, reasoned, smart work around issues that male athletes have faced. But on the stories involving male athletes, we always talked about it and then figured out what the best approach was, so I don't think we should do anything differently right now.
Maybe the best thing we could provide to readers at this point is this email chain?