Former WNBA #1 draft pick and Russian prisoner Brittney Griner suited up for the Phoenix Mercury for the first time since being repatriated to American soil following her arrest and imprisonment for breaking the law overseas.
Long the subject of how she’d handle her eventual return to the court and address past national anthem controversies, Griner surprised many with her on-court handling of the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Back in the summer of 2020, Griner shared a view common among Black Lives Matter that the anthem was rooted in racism. “I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season,” Griner said during an interview in July of that summer. “I think we should take that much of a stand.”
“I’m going to protest regardless,” she added. “I’m not going to be out there for the national anthem. If the league continues to want to play it, that’s fine. It will be all season long, I’ll not be out there. I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself.”
“Hearing the national anthem, it definitely hit different,” Griner said. “It’s like when you go for the Olympics, you’re sitting there, about to get gold put on your neck, the flags are going up, and the anthem is playing, it just hits different. “Being here today … it means a lot.”
“We looked at each other, and we just had chills,” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “We were here last year for all of it. I’m getting emotional about it now. Just to see her back out there — it’s an absolute miracle. It was amazing. It’s giving me chills again.”
After the game, she also spoke about her performance on the court. “Not where I want it to be, but on the right track,” Griner said. “We’re making the right moves.”
To be sure, this is what many folks were hoping they’d see from Griner. She has been blessed with height and athleticism and is able to make a comfortable living in America because of it. Nobody cares about her identity as a black or lesbian woman, however much the left decides to make it an issue.
That’s a far cry from Griner’s stance during the George Floyd “mostly peaceful protests,” during which Griner protested the anthem. Such is what Arizona Republic reported at the time, saying that she said: “I honestly feel we should not play the National Anthem during our season. I think we should take that much of a stand.”
Continuing, she added, “I don’t mean that in any disrespect to our country. My dad was in Vietnam and a law officer for 30 years. I wanted to be a cop before basketball. I do have pride for my country.”
Griner then added that she would walk off the court should the Star-Spangled Banner be played, saying, “I’m going to protest regardless. I’m not going to be out there for the National Anthem. If the league continues to want to play it, that’s fine. It will be all season long, I’ll not be out there. I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself.“
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