Until yesterday, not one thing I had read about Brittney Griner's punch moved me in any way whatsoever.
That's not to say that the people who have written about it were poor writers, it's just that nothing was said that seemed particularly insightful.
Griner's response to being tossed to the floor wasn't all that surprising. Perhaps the punishment was light, but there are rules and precedents in place for punishing her action. I personally think Jordan Barncastle should receive a stronger punishment -- if you look the foul and her response afterward, that was not "incidental basketball contact" -- but that's neither here nor there.
Not surprisingly, it was the words of an educator that finally made some sense.
Sue of They're Playing Basketball wrote the following about Baylor coach Kim Mulkey's response to Griner:
They're Playing Basketball: Mulkey's motherly approach to Griner is something we need to see more of in sports
I wholeheartedly appreciate this compassionate but firm approach, coupled with its understanding of the fundamental nature of young people: that they make mistakes. And that they tend to repeat those mistakes over and over until they finally learn the lesson. It's the same approach I use when dealing with kids, and it really gets through to them. But it is denegrated by some in our still-sexist sports culture as being "soft." Male coaches, in particular, sometimes think along the "throw the book at 'em" lines - as well as a lot of yelling - are the way to go. If you're not doing that, you're too soft.
First, for some reason we manage to forget that college basketball coaches should be educators first, even if they are unique in that their students' performance ends up on ESPN.
Second, an educators job is to create a learning environment in which students have opportunities to learn from situations they find themselves in through reflection. The educator should then help students grow by imposing educative consequences not just engaging in public character assault or wielding power by forcing them to sit for the rest of the season.
Third, as she has worked with Griner an entire season and actually knows the woman personally, she knows her better than any of us sitting on our couches -- or even press row -- could ever hope to. So it might just be that handling it firmly but compassionately is the best way to help this particular 19 year old youth grow as a person.
Any coach worth half their salary -- as an educator -- would have already established expectations and a sense of consequences clear enough that she wouldn't have to arbitrarily react to this situation but work within an already established system to resolve the problem.
The idea that some have advanced that we should know exactly what's going on behind closed doors or that Mulkey somehow owed us a response on our time table seems to ignore the fact that the growth of a 19 year old is at stake in this situation. if for some reason you believe that a 19 year old is a fully developed person, then we can agree to disagree -- I know that I have changed and grown immensely since 19, just by having more life experience and people to help me along.
Does this any of this excuse her actions? Of course not. Is it a non-issue? No -- she's not just a college star but a women's basketball star and the talent she's been given comes with an expensive price tag of responsibility. But to criticize the response or demand more of Mulkey demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to work with young people.
And yes, 19 is young, still classified as "youth" in most places in the world.