Brittney Griner, WNBA Star, Recalls Hurtful Bullies: I Was Called “A Dude”

Brittney Griner opens up about overcoming bullying.
Brittney Griner Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images

There's no doubt that Brittney Griner, an WNBA basketball player, has had to stand up for herself — on the court and off.

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The Phoenix Mercury player, who revealed she was a lesbian before the WNBA draft in April, opened up in a new interview with the LA Times that growing up in Houston, Texas, she wasn't always truly accepted by her peers. In fact, the 6 foot 8 inch athlete tells the newspaper that there were classmates who refused to believe she was a girl and taunted her verbally. 

Recalling a moment when a boy stopped her in the hallway and called her "a dude," Griner tells the paper: "I just stood there and took it. I was humiliated. The whole school was laughing at me." 

She was an easy target, she says because: "I was always taller, my feet were always bigger and my voice was deeper."

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During Wednesday, July 17's ESPY Awards, Griner was still faced with bullies, this time via Twitter. At the show, where the 22-year-old won the Best College Athlete Award, online bullies slammed the star throughout the night — writing that Griner should win for Best Male Athlete instead. 

Back in 2012, bullies also questioned her decision to not compete in the Olympic games, suggesting that maybe Griner wouldn't have passed the gender tests. (A gender verification test involves evaluations by gynecologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, and internal medicine specialists to ensure that the athlete is the gender they claim.) 

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"I wanted to stay in school," she shared of her choice to not compete in London. "My mom, she's sick. I just wanted to see her. It was just stupid. People are always going to come up with dumb stuff and rumors that they don't actually know the truth to."

The Baylor graduate says she's ultimately learned to turn the other cheek.

"When I was younger, it really bothered me to the point where I was like 'I don’t even want to be alive; why am I getting treated like that?' she tells the LA Times. "But as I got older, I started caring less." 

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Griner hopes that her presence in the LGBT community will help other teens and young fans feel accepted, regardless of their sexual orientation. "I didn’t have a real role model that I could look up to that was out openly … I knew there were a lot of younger girls that needed someone," she explains.

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