Sports - where it's still okay to treat men and women differently

Since Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he would consider drafting Brittney Griner a couple days ago, the "women playing in men's sports" debate has been renewed.

Griner joins Danica Patrick and Michelle Wie, the most recent examples, as women who either have joined or have been talked about joining the "men's division" of their chosen sport.

Whether or not Griner could play a meaningful role in the NBA is a matter of opinion. The real question is: why not let her, and any other woman who has the inclination, try?

In fact, sports like the NBA and MLS and any sport for that matter, should be actively trying to bring women into their leagues. This is supposed to be the best of the best right? It's not the World Series of Men, it's the World Series.

I know what some of you are saying, "Every sport? What about the UFC?" Well if there was a woman who proved herself, like every man does, through matches against opponents of similar weight, then yes, the UFC as well. How many male MMA fighters of her weight class would happily sign up to fight Ronda Rousey? My guess would be probably not many.

Sports is the ultimate equalizer. Usually, the better team wins. Regardless of sex, if you can shoot, you can shoot. If you can pass, you can pass. If you can choke out an opponent in the first round, well you get the point.

Some women will not make the cut because they are not quick enough or strong enough or tall enough, but how is that different than many men who don't make the cut for similar reasons?

There will probably never be a female version of LeBron James. But there is no question women could play a real role in the NBA. They can pass, steal and shoot. How is that any different than the game of 13-year veteran Earl Boykins or Tony Parker or Goran Dragic or any other guard?

It's surprising that women sports writers, like Jemele Hill at ESPN, are so against Griner playing in the NBA. Hill has no problem going on shows like First Take and Around the Horn and talking about sports. A woman in a so-called "man's world." This is from her column posted on ESPNW today:

If Griner flirted with the NBA and failed, it would do a lot more damage. There would be an obsession with her successes and failures. Every missed and made shot would be replayed repeatedly on TV and throughout social media. Could you imagine what life would be like for the man who dunked on her, or for any man whose shot she blocked or on whom she scored? One of the greatest players in women's college basketball history would risk being relegated to being the punch line of far too many jokes. Or worse, considered a failure."

Did Hill feel this way about herself when she started writing about sports? She must have heard that she was in a "man's profession" and people would never read her articles with the same respect as say a Bob Ryan. Did that stop her? Doesn't appear to have.

The notion that Griner would become the laughing stock of the NBA is an idea based on fear. Fear of what could go wrong and how someone could be perceived. The message that people should not do something because of the downside sends a very dangerous message to young girls and boys.

It also sends girls the wrong idea when they are told they can do and be whatever they want, but are also given restrictions on those dreams. Want to compete against the best of the best? Sure, but you better mean against the best women.

The other idea put forward by Hill, that women don't need to "validate" themselves by playing in a the men's league, is making the wrong assumption. No one is saying, "Now if Griner can play in the NBA, then we'll know she can really play basketball."

We already know that. There is no doubt the Williams sisters can play tennis or Mia Hamm was a great soccer player.

So yes, let Griner into the NBA and bring Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne with her while you're at it. What is true from Hill's column is Griner would become a spectacle. But that's because she would be the only one of her kind in a sea of men. Bring five, 10, 20 other women basketball players with her and she doesn't stand out quite so much.

It's baffling that in 2013, the age when women can serve right alongside men in the military, the notion of a man and a woman sharing a basketball hoop is taboo.

Seems fitting that the Jackie Robinson movie is days away from debuting as this debate unfolds. Women in sports seems to be the latest version of separate but equal. Women have the WNBA, so that's where they should stay? Jackie Robinson had the Negro League, but that didn't seem to be enough for him.

Women want to be equal with men, just as black people wanted to be equal with white people. There's nothing more equal than competing against and with each other on the court or in the field.

Here's to hoping Griner's name is called at the NBA draft on June 27, and a few other women's names as well.

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