Before her last ill-fated visit to Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner was a national anthem protester and refused to stand at attention when the anthem was played ahead of her games. Now that she has been freed from a Russian prison, though, Griner is singing a different tune.
Griner has told fans that she intends to stand for the anthem as the WNBA’s season continues, Fox News reported.
The Phoenix Mercury player spent nearly a year in jail in Russia after being arrested and convicted of importing drugs into the country when authorities found a cannabis-infused vape cartridge in her luggage as she tried to leave Moscow. She was arrested, sent to trial, convicted, and sentenced to ten years of hard labor.
Ultimately, Russian authorities exchanged Griner for Viktor Bout, an arms dealer who earned the nickname “the merchant of death.” Griner was finally freed and returned to the U.S.A. after ten months of being embroiled in the Russian legal system.
Now that she is safely back in the U.S.A., Griner is saying that the anthem “definitely hit different” to her than it once did.
On Friday, Griner’s agent published an op-ed in Time magazine to explain why she’ will stand for the anthem.
“Last year, most WNBA teams chose to remain in their locker rooms during the national anthem, in a gesture of unified protest against the incongruity between the values the anthem signifies and the realities for Black people in America,” sports rep. Lindsay Kagawa Colas wrote.
“This year, as so much remains unchanged, some teams or players may do the same. Others may sit or kneel. Still others, including Brittney Griner, plan to stand up — physically for the anthem itself and symbolically for the rights of their peers to make themselves heard and express dissent loudly and boldly, and in accordance with the proudest traditions of this country, however they see fit,” Colas added.
Colas went on to say that Griner feels that she temporarily lost her “American freedoms” when she was wrongfully prosecuted in Russia. As a result, now she feels differently about the anthem than she once did.
“Having been put in a literal cage, too small for her frame, stripped of her essential American freedoms, and deprived of even her most basic rights during a sham trial and unjust sentencing, Brittney, supported by many other players, will make a statement this WNBA season by standing tall for those uniquely American freedoms — the most important of which being the absolute and inviolable and constitutionally protected freedom to stand, sit, kneel, praise, protest, and otherwise make your voice heard,” Colas explained.
This is a complete turnaround for Griner. In July of 2020, the star player jumped feet first to join the anti-anthem crowd and said that the league shouldn’t even play the anthem, much less stand in honor during it.
At the time, Griner told the sports media, “I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season. I think we should take that much of a stand.”
She added that she would protest against the country “regardless.”
“I’m going to protest regardless. I’m not going to be out there for the national anthem,” she said. “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.”
What a difference real persecution by a foreign nation can make, huh?