Brittney Griner ‘plans to represent the national anthem’ in her first WNBA game on American soil after her 10-month detention in Russia after previously saying ‘it shouldn’t play’ at their games
- Griner stood for the national anthem earlier this month in a preseason game
- She will make her official WNBA return on Friday night against the LA Sparks at 11 p.m. ET
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Brittney will represent the US national anthem in her first WNBA appearance since President Joe Biden traded her freedom for ‘The Merchant of Death’.
According to Griner’s agent – who wrote an op-ed in TIME – the 6ft 9in center recently changed his mind after his previous views and accompanying condemnation of what the anthem stood for.
Griner has a new level of gratitude for his country. In 2020, she went so far as to suggest that the WNBA “shouldn’t play the national anthem during our season” and wouldn’t be on the court for The Star Spangled Banner. She seemed to infer some gratitude and appreciation for the anthem during postgame remarks after a preseason game against the LA Sparks on May 12.
“Hearing the national anthem, it definitely hit differently,” Griner said, presumably alluding to his newfound freedoms.
“It’s like when you go to the Olympics, you’re sitting there about to have gold put on your neck, the flags go up and the anthem plays, it just sounds different. To be here today… means a lot.
The Mercury star performed for the national anthem ahead of a May 12 preseason game in Phoenix
Griner was convicted of drug trafficking in August and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. She was, however, released from a Russian penal colony on December 8 after President Biden authorized a swap, sending convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia.
The former Baylor star was assigned to a Mordovian penal colony, an area known for its brutal prison system, until the Biden administration made the polarizing trade for his release. She was detained in Russia for 10 months, spending less than a month inside the penal colony.
His agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said Griner only travels to play in the transcontinental country because of “pay inequity rooted in racism, sexism and homophobia.”
Griner echoed similar reasoning, but did not suggest that her black skin or lesbian sexuality were the reasons for a pay gap between NBA and WNBA players.
“It’s a shame that we have to leave our families for the holidays, you miss everything by being away. As much as I’d love to pay my light bill for the love of the game, but I can’t,” said Griner, who will win $165,100 this season.
The NBA has made $10 billion in revenue through 2021-22. Naturally, this overshadows the projected earnings for the WNBA through 2023 — $180-200 million. Seventeen of the WNBA’s 20 highest paid players are of African American descent.
“Having been placed in a literal cage too small for her setting, stripped of her essential American freedoms and deprived of even her most basic rights in a show trial and unjust sentencing, Brittney, supported by many others players, will make a statement this WNBA season by defending these uniquely American freedoms,’ Kagawa Colas wrote.
Griner had 10 and three rebounds in his first taste of basketball action after his release
ESPN chose Griner’s return as the opening game cover of the next WNBA season
“In their acceptance and celebration of everyone’s freedom to choose different ways to express themselves,” such as “patriotic protests,” “WNBA athletes celebrate what it means to be patriotic.”
“They turn the sadistic blow of BG’s detention, intended by Putin to serve as a racial and political wedge, into a reminder of the vibrancy, diversity and strength of all that America’s adversaries hoped to defeat.
“Not least, each of them stands in undeniable solidarity with Brittney – even if they happen to take a stand by taking a knee.”
Griner and his Phoenix Mercury teammates kick off their WNBA season Friday night at 11 p.m. ET against the Sparks.