Kim Mulkey, who coached Brittney Griner for four years at Baylor University, is under fire for refusing to comment on her former player’s arrest in Russia in media reports earlier this week.
A reporter began by asking Mulkey, “I want to get your thoughts on the Britney Griner situation. I don’t think I saw anything from you in that,” but was now cut off by the Louisiana State University coach’s abrupt reply, “and you won’t.”
Many have been angered by Mulkey’s lack of sympathy for the plight of the pro basketball star.
Former Baylor center Egbo tweeted: “A player who built Baylor, 2 national titles and a 40-0 record. Yet his former coach refuses to say anything or even show any support. Keep that in mind when choosing schools.”
Egbo’s former Baylor teammate Chloe Jackson also tweeted: “And I’ll say it again. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES, smh.”
Although Mulkey has remained relatively quiet publicly about his former player, he spoke about Griner on Tiger Rag Radio in June.
“I keep up with it, as you do, in terms of what’s in the national media,” Mulkey said. “I don’t make any public comments about it. I think it’s a personal issue, you just want everyone to come home safe.
“I pray for Britney. I want him safe at home. I think there are a lot of people speaking on his behalf and those of us who don’t necessarily talk about it publicly are certainly praying for him.”
Griner and Mulkey had tremendous success with each other at Baylor University. That included a 40-0 season in Griner’s junior year, where he was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, as well as winning AP Player of the Year and Wade Trophy Player of the Year.
In his four years at Baylor, Griner led the team to 131 wins, four Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights, two Final Fours and a national title. Griner broke the NCAA record for blocks, earned the Top Athlete Rank and sealed his place as arguably the best player in college history.
In 2013, Griner came out as a lesbian and said Baylor wanted her to keep quiet.
“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said in an interview with ESPN. “The coaches thought that if it looked like they supported that, people wouldn’t let their kids come play at Baylor.”
Griner later said in his autobiography that his criticism was directed not at Mulkey, but at the general culture of Baylor University.
Baylor is a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas, and has a policy in its student handbook that says sex should be limited to heterosexual marriages.
In his autobiography, Griner wrote about his conflicted relationship with the university.
He wrote, “I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it’s hard to do… I’ve spent too much of my life feeling like something is wrong.
“And no matter the support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn’t erase all the pain I felt there.”
Current Baylor coach Nicki Collen was also asked about Griner’s status this week.
“Meeting BG, knowing him, being around him, he’s a great kid,” Collen said. “To know him is to love him. I mean, honestly, he’s one of those people who just radiates joy.
“I think BG is, first of all, a human being. In my opinion, this is a human rights issue. No one has said they haven’t made mistakes. None of us are perfect.
“But I guess I wanted to know if I were to do something and be stuck in a foreign country, what it was, what it wasn’t.
“I think we all know that 10 years is a long time. I see her as a mother, a sister, a spouse, a daughter, an incredible ambassador for the game of basketball.”
Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being arrested in February for possession of cannabis oil. His lawyers have appealed the decision and President Joe Biden is working with Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan on a possible prisoner exchange with Russia.
Baylor did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.