By Abigail Olsson
The Washington Stand
Before her 10-month imprisonment in Russia, lesbian-identifying Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner was an avid national anthem protestor before her games. She had previously vocalized opposition to the anthem, claiming that the song was not representative of black Americans and went so far as to say that the anthem should not even be played at games. In a surprising turn of events — after her release from Russian custody — she both verbally and physically expressed a changed perspective, capturing America’s attention.
The Mercury center had traveled to Russia in February of 2022 to play basketball on an international level. Upon Griner’s arrival at the Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, authorities found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her possession, resulting in her immediate arrest. Many believed that it was a “clear effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain leverage.” Although she was sentenced to nine years in prison, the Biden administration made a prisoner swap in December, and she returned to the U.S. and resumed playing.
For the first time in years, Griner stood for the national anthem before her game on Friday, a display that grabbed headlines. The WNBA player claimed that the Star Spangled Banner “definitely hit different” this time around. Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard agreed with Griner’s newfound perspective of the anthem.