Just two weeks prior to their recent wedding, WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson made headlines for a different reason — a domestic violence incident, during which a 911 call was placed and arrests were made. Griner accepted a plea deal on April 28th which includes mandatory counseling, while Johnson has voluntarily entered a counseling program.
“It is never OK for an argument to turn physical,” Griner said in a statement released through her attorney. “This will never happen again, and I take my relationship and my responsibility as a role model seriously.”
“I am committed to making positive changes and I plan to use what I have learned to set a good example and help make a difference in the world around me,” she added.
The WNBA, which stated that it was “investigating the incident,” soon after the news broke, released a statement earlier today, outlining details of the incident and also announcing the decision to suspend both Griner and Johnson.
With consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this matter, we are suspending Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson each without pay for a period of seven regular-season games. Brittney and Glory’s conduct is detrimental to the best interests of the WNBA and violates applicable law. We also understand that people make mistakes, and that education and training are as important as imposing discipline. Accordingly, each player will be required to attend individual counseling sessions with a counselor satisfactory to the WNBA. If either player fails to comply with this condition or any of the conditions imposed by the court, we reserve the right to revisit this matter.
The WNBA will continue to focus intently on the issue of domestic violence. Along with our partners in the Players Association, we will continue to educate our players so that they are equipped with the appropriate tools and resources and provided with necessary support systems. As such, we will be conducting education sessions with all WNBA players and team personnel throughout the season focused on domestic violence and related issues. We recognize that our league has an obligation and an opportunity to set an example for people around the world, and we will continue doing everything we can to ensure that situations such as this do not happen again.
In the weeks leading up to this decision, many felt that the incident was not spurring enough discussion. As writer Samantha Master points out in The Root, domestic violence is an important, and often unadressed issue in the LGBTQ community.
While I am reluctant to call Brittney and Glory’s relationship abusive—which denotes dynamics of power and control—it’s important to interrogate why acts of abuse and intimate-partner violence are highly publicized and scrutinized when committed within black heterosexual relationships, but are often swept under the rug, silenced and erased by both national media and within our communities when these acts are committed within black queer relationships.
This invisibility perpetuates a misleading and false narrative that surrounds queer relationships, one that assumes queer people cannot be abused or abuse each other because of the false belief that the power dynamics between two people of the same gender or biological sex are somehow more “equitable.” This is a lie and disallows black queer people in abusive relationships to see their relationships as such.
If abuse, at its core, is about power and control, then same-gender relationships, relationships between trans women and cis men, trans men and cis women, or two trans people are not exempt from this reality.
Like Master, I’m hesitant to call Griner and Johnson’s relationship abusive, especially without knowing all the facts. But, I do think that discussing such a high profile relationship opens a dialogue that allows those of us with LGBTQI friends and family members to provide them with support if they might need it.
If you or someone you know is a LGBTQI person of color who is experiencing intimate-partner violence, please consider reaching out to Community United Against Violence.