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After Brittney Griner’s conviction, silence from Kim Mulkey looms large

Brittney Griner and Kim Mulkey celebrate after Baylor’s national title win in 2012. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for 169 days. On the 168th day, the WNBA star was convicted of drug smuggling charges by a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.

Many from throughout the world of sports have been vocal about her wrongful detention — including WNBA players as well as many coaches. One notable figure, though, has remained silent.

LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who coached Griner at Baylor, has not issued a public statement on her former player’s plight. During Griner’s time at Baylor from 2009-13, she helped the team to an undefeated season and a national championship, one of three Mulkey won during her 21-season tenure at the school.

Just Women’s Sports reached out to the LSU athletic department Thursday for comment from Mulkey on Griner’s conviction, but no statement was provided as of Friday. An athletic department spokesperson said he would reach out if Mulkey does release a statement.

While Griner’s college coach has not issued a statement, her alma mater has spoken out in support of the former Bears standout.

Baylor women’s basketball issued the following statement when Just Women’s Sports reached out for comment on Griner’s conviction: “With the unsettling news of the verdict and sentencing of Brittney Griner, we continue to pray for her ongoing strength and safety throughout her detainment. We recognize the extraordinary complexity of this situation, yet we remain hopeful of the day she will again set foot on U.S. ground.”

Baylor University put out a statement back in March when news of Griner’s detainment first became public, calling the news of Griner’s detainment “alarming.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with BG and her family,” the statement read. “Right now, our foremost concern is for her safety and well being during this difficult time in Russia and her eventual safe return to the United States.”

In July, the Baylor athletic department released a video in support of Griner, saying that the Baylor family “stands with Brittney” and that “it’s time to bring her home.”

Current Baylor coach Nicki Collen, who took over after Mulkey left for LSU in 2021, spoke out Thursday, writing on Twitter: “Prayers for BG’s safety and a plan to bring her home soon! I didn’t get the chance to coach BG but I got to coach against her, see her heart for her others up close, and I coach every single day at a place that she helped make great.”

Other collegiate head coaches have voiced their support. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley has tweeted about Griner nearly every day since the news broke of her detainment.

“We will not stop advocating for [your] release,” Staley tweeted Thursday in the wake of Griner’s conviction. “Hold on to God unchanging hand. We love you, BG!”

In December 2021, ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel wrote about a falling out between Griner and Mulkey that occurred back in 2013, after Griner told reporters that she was encouraged to keep quiet about her sexuality while at Baylor. While Griner said her comments were not directed toward Mulkey in particular, the comments still led to a rift in their relationship.

While Mulkey told ESPN last December that she “will always be grateful for what Griner did at the school,” the two were not in contact at the time of Voepel’s article.

Former Minnesota men’s basketball player Kendal Shell turned to Twitter to call out Mulkey’s silence on Griner’s detention.

“Kim Mulkey being silent while one of her own goes through this is very telling,” wrote Shell. “BG went to war for her and that Baylor program everyday. Too many coaches that only care about what you can do for them on the court but could care less about you as a human off the court.”

WNBA player Angel McCoughtry hit back at Shell, writing: “Let’s not do this! First of all. You don’t know how people deal with things. Maybe she’s in her prayer closet in silence. So let’s not judge before you know what’s going on”

As McCoughtry points out, Mulkey could be lending her support to her former player in private, though the coach does maintain an active social media presence.

However, Mulkey’s continued public silence about Griner’s detention in Russia is growing louder by the day.