Is there a Connection for Brittney Griner to Disability, Sports and Ableism?

By Leroy F. Moore Jr., Krip-Hop Nation

LOS ANGELES — As a Black disabled activist, an athlete that competed in the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea and the son of a former NFL player, I have closely followed the case of Brittney Griner.

I have one question: Is there a connection for Ms. Griner to disability, sports and ableism? Has the WNBA star been using medical cannabis for “severe chronic pain”?

Could it be a disability case because without her medical cannabis it would be very hard for her to continue to play basketball.  Has this disability viewpoint entered the public argument?  In testimony at her trial, Griner described injuries to her spine, ankle and knees, some of which required her to use a wheelchair for months, according to Reuters.   

So far, in the articles I’ve read she has not identified herself as disabled. This could be a possible segue into ableism and the internalized ableism of athletes.

When I was an athlete, cannabis was not legal. However, I used everything that was legal for the soreness and pain every time I got off my racing bike or off the court from wheelchair soccer. There’s a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exempt) in Olympic and Paralympic competitions for drugs that are on the banned list and very illegal

Using a TUE means the athlete can use the drug, even if it’s banned and illegal and compete in sport without any repercussions.  I just heard from another Paralympian and she told me that another Paralympian is getting a TUE for Marijuana.

I remember listening to my father’s stories of how grown men would tear up after a football game because of the pain from their injuries that ranged from popping bones out of socket like knees, hips, collarbone to broken bones, pulled muscles etc.

Retired NFL athletes, like my father, have continued to bring cases of their disabilities from the game for compensation of their medical bills to the NFL.  When my father was playing, he tried hot tubs, rubdowns, Epsom salt baths and many other ways to take away the pain so he could play the next weekend.

I’m suggesting that internalized ableism has prevented athletes from self-identifying as disabled and thus not allowing them to have access to the protections. This could be a major element of Griner not being identified as disabled.  

But if she was free to identify as disabled then maybe the CRPD may have been an opportunity to support her case. Going on with that possibility, there could be a connection between sports, disability & Griner’s case on the legal side by bringing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Article 30 to her case that says:

Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport that States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities:

With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:

To encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels….

In 2012, Russia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  So, have the lawyers of Griner used this perspective?  Is there a double-edged sword to use the disability angle because in sports if you are on “the disabled list” that has been recently changed to “Injured list” then you are not active as an athlete until you “heal up”.

But we all know many athletes played with injuries/disabilities.  To say the above, is there room and support of Griner to frame her pain into a disability perspective today?  

We can look at the public and sports obstacles that many pro athletes who were outspoken about their disability like pro golfer, Casey Martin who attempted to use a golf cart only after he used the ADA reasonable accommodation clause.

He was told over and over he couldn’t use a cart and that’s when he started to disclose his disability. Both Martin and Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner that wanted to compete in the Olympics had to take legal action to hurdle the ableism in sports.

Even in the Olympics when track runners who ran on blades all had to go to court and get public support to push the pro sports arena to let them compete in their sports. Because of this struggle, I can see why the disability element or coming out as an athlete with a disability is still not welcome or makes their sport’s career harder.

So, we can see ableism in sports mix can with internalized ableism brought on by the lack of openness in professional sports keeping not only athletes to come out as disabled and also to use legal and human rights protection in sports.  

Unfortunately, professional sports only value some bodies and not others and how athletes get caught up in that so they won’t disclose disabilities and thus don’t get support, legal support to alleviate the pain and use the laws and human rights like CRPD that is not a law, it’s not binding, it’s a human right document to support themselves.

Leroy F. Moore Jr, is a co-founder of Krip-Hop Nation. He can be reached via email at Blackkrip@gmail.com

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