With an irony not apparent to these commentators, the belief that Griner is “not manly enough” to play in the NBA is flatly opposed by the other offensive method people used to insult her: that she is a man. This is a classic transphobic trope, or a fear that her gender presentation does not “match” the sex she was assigned at birth. For example: “she possesses man parts, so why not?”; “Griner has a penis and would fit right in”; “She looks and sounds like a man.” For much more, if you need it, in this vein, just check out the hashtag…

All of these slurs and “jokes” – both the misogynistic and the transphobic ones – serve a common purpose: to move the discussion away from whether Griner should be afforded the chance to try out (after all, if she has the talent, why shouldn’t she?), and instead, towards the conversation about her very identity as a human being. It is no longer about her ability or skill, and her eligibility for the NBA, but about her value as a person and her membership of society…

That is why when people debate whether Griner is too manly or not manly enough, they purposefully avoid the discussion about her skill, even though that is a legitimate conversation worth having. By undermining a woman’s legitimacy off the court, they reinforce a sports culture built around a belief that men should not be challenged on it. Their goal is to remind Griner – and women generally – about women’s inferior position not just in sports but in the social hierarchy, too. Ultimately, they hope to intimidate her from doing anything that might call into question these ideas.