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Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner opens up about being bullied, weighs in on new look for WNBA

LISTEN: Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

PHOENIX — Shortly after becoming the WNBA’s top draft pick in 2013, Brittney Griner made league history when she dunked twice during a single game.

At 6-feet, 8-inches tall, the center for the Phoenix Mercury has a lot of surface area but she said she prefers to keep much of her legs covered.

Both on and off the court, Griner favors long shorts, and she said she was surprised to see the truncated versions being considered by the WNBA. Griner said they resembled a triathlon uniform and were described by the league as “sleek and sexy.”

“I hate how they try to use sexy on us,” she said. “Like that’s the only way women can get people to watch our sport or see anything we’re doing. You’ll never hear a guy say, ‘I gotta be sexy.’ You’ll hear a guy say, ‘I gotta go hard, be raw, be fierce.'”

Griner, 23, said the league has heard players’ comments and she said she hopes the new uniforms — expected to worn on the court next year — won’t make players uncomfortable.

A WNBA representative did not directly address uniform changes but said the league would “announce them closer to the actual launch.”

For now, Griner said her focus is on the Mercury’s season opener against the Seattle Storm and her work with young people, especially those in the LGBT community. She said she recently launched a fundraising campaign to create a mobile app where people can safely and confidentially get advice, ask questions and find resources.

She explained why the app was created.

“One thing I found when I was going through it is that I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone I was getting bullied face-to-face because I didn’t want to get judged, I guess. So with the phone, you have a safe buffer zone in between you and whoever you’re talking to, and you don’t have to see them face-to-face.”

Griner wrote about her own struggles with bullying, coming out and family acceptance in her new memoir “In My Skin.”

“I had some dark days when I felt like I wasn’t going to make it to the next day,” she said.

Through her book and mobile app, Griner said she hopes to ease the pain that others might be experiencing.

When it comes to her sexual orientation, Griner said she’s “not trying to throw it in anybody’s face.” And when people will realize “it doesn’t affect the team at all,” then stories about gay athletes coming out might come to an end, she said.