Kim Mulkey is entitled to her own opinion.
The problem is, she has a history of opinions that are damaging to women and the sport she coaches.
The Baylor women’s head basketball coach’s name is in the news because of her recent comments about how she would welcome a White House invitation from President Trump since her Lady Bears defeated Notre Dame 82-81 in the national championship last Sunday.
“I’ve been every time for every president,” Mulkey said. "It’s not a political issue for me. It’s an honor to go to the White House. I want everyone to say they went to the White House. Not many people can say that.”
Mulkey went on to mention her teams “were honored” when they made visits to see President Bush and President Obama in the past.
The problem is, this is the present.
Trump hasn’t invited a single women’s championship team, college or pro, to the White House.
Why would you ever want to visit someone who’s made it clear they don’t want you to?
Mulkey is one of the best the sport has ever seen, regardless of gender. With three national titles to her name and a career record of 576-99, she is the sole reason why Baylor has become a powerhouse since her arrival in 2000.
You would think that a woman with that kind of resume would be more into empowering women. But instead of me saying it, I’ll let Mulkey prove it to you in her own words.
“I understand her points, without a doubt. But I’m of the belief, I want the best person for the job. I have a son, and I would be honored if my son wanted to coach next to me.”
Those were Mulkey’s words during the Final Four in a rebuttal to Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw’s impassioned speech on women’s equality and why she wouldn’t hire another male coach on her staff. According to ThinkProgress.com, the percentage of female-led women’s college basketball programs dropped to 59% in 2018 from 79% in 1977.
“Men run the world, men have the power, men make the decisions,” McGraw said. “It’s always the men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming up, who are they looking up to, to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than sports?”
“I’m happy for Baylor University. Plaster that on the front page of every national newspaper. It doesn’t get any more positive than this.”
That’s what Mulkey said after her team advanced to the Final Four a few weeks ago. Her comments were in reference to how the school had “went through a lot” back in 2005 when they won their first national title.
Back in 2003, Baylor men’s basketball player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a teammate, and an NCAA investigation unearthed just the beginnings of how corrupt the athletic department was. There were recruiting violations, drug abuse and cover-ups in the program. A 2017 Showtime documentary titled “Disgraced” revealed how former head coach Dave Bliss instructed players to lie to authorities, and even practiced how they should do it.
“If somebody’s around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face.”
Those were Mulkey’s infamous words from 2017 as she stood at center court after winning her 500th game. It was her attempt to defend her school, given that the head football coach, school president, athletic director and Title IX coordinator had all been fired or resigned after it was alleged that at least 50 sexual assaults were committed by football players over a four-year period and were covered up or ignored.
“This is a great institution, and I would send my daughter here, and I would pay for anyone else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know. And I’m tired of hearing it. This is a great institution. The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write."
“It was a recruiting thing. The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor."
That’s what former Baylor star Brittney Griner told ESPN back in 2013 about what Mulkey told her players about not being open publicly about their sexuality.
This week it was revealed that the television ratings for the women’s national championship game were up. That was in connection to the fact that the women’s NCAA Tournament had its highest attendance in 15 years.
On Monday, the WNBA released a new logo.
Two days later, the league revealed new Nike uniforms for the upcoming season, just hours before the 2019 WNBA Draft.
From Muffet McGraw’s speech, to the popularity of women’s college basketball being on the rise, and to the WNBA doing more to build excitement around their league, everything feels like this is a turning point for women’s basketball, and women’s sports in general.
Except that one of the greatest coaches in the game, and a woman at that, seems to always get in the way when progress is being made.
Kim Mulkey is a stumbling block for change.
But don’t get mad at me for saying it.