EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, dial 988 to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For those deaf and hard of hearing, TTY users should use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988. For tips on dealing with bullying, visit Stopbullying.gov.
WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner has long heard speculation and insults about her body. When you’re a 6-foot-9 woman, people tend to notice you.
These days, she likely has more important things on her mind than her appearance after being sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges in Russia, where she is waiting to see if President Joe Biden’s proposed prisoner swap comes to fruition.
But that hasn’t stopped social media users from making baseless assertions that the Olympic champion and six-time WNBA All-Star is a man posing as a woman, some of them using photos allegedly of Griner to make the claim.
Others have used an online meme template to create a false CNN screenshot saying that Russian officials wanted to perform a DNA test on Griner to determine in which prison she should be housed.
These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
There is no evidence that Russia has ordered her to undergo a DNA test. Newsweek fact-checkers pointed to a New York Times story that Griner was being held before her trial at a former orphanage used to house women.
Nor is there evidence that Griner is a man, as social media users allege. Griner has posted photos of herself as a young girl on her Facebook page and has spoken multiple times about how she has overcome bullying because of her physical appearance.
Griner spoke about other people’s reaction to her body and why she decided to pose naked for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue in 2015.
“I’m sure people are going to have a lot of critical things to say [about these photos]. ‘Yo, she’s a man!’ But hey, that’s my body and I look the way I look. People are either going to accept me for who I am or they’re not,” Griner told ESPN. “I don’t know what people think I’m hiding. I’ve heard, ‘Oh, she’s not a female, she’s a male.’ I’ve been told, ‘Oh, she’s tucking stuff.’ They thought I was tucking. I mean, it’s out there. Let me show that I embrace the flatness! I just want people to see somebody who embraces being naked, embraces everything about them being different.”
She also told ESPN that she was bullied as a child because of her size, her body and her deep voice.
“I’ve always been flat-chested. I remember around sixth or seventh grade the ‘cool girls’ would reach out and touch my chest: ‘Yep, nothing.’ I felt like less than a person,” she said.
In a 2017 ESPN video, she described having suicidal thoughts and cutting her wrists because of the bullying. She has since covered those scars with tattoos, she said. She also described being kicked out of a woman’s restroom as an adult in China by another woman who thought she was a man, and said that’s even happened to her in the U.S.
Griner also spoke out against bullying and her body image in an interview on the Mercury’s website in 2021.
“I just remember feeling like a weirdo, feeling like an outcast,” she said.
Griner also wrote about those topics in her 2015 book, “In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court.”
Social media users claim that Griner is really a man, but Griner has spoken often about the hurtful comments and bullying she has faced over the years, including often being mistaken for a male because of her physical appearance. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!