WNBA star Brittney Griner is finally speaking out personally after her sports rep published an op-ed explaining why she will stand for the national anthem after years of protesting it.
On Friday, for the first time in years, Griner stood for the national anthem ahead of the Phoenix Mercury’s 94-71 loss against the Los Angeles Sparks.
After the game, Griner explained why she stood, according to Fox News.
“You have the right to protest, the right to able to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things,” Griner said. “What I went through and everything, it just means a little bit more to me now. So I want to be able to stand. I was literally in a cage [in Russia] and could not stand the way I wanted to.”
“Just being able to hear my national anthem, see my flag, I definitely want to stand. Now everybody that will not stand or not come out, I totally support them 100 percent. That’s our right, as an American in this great country,” she said.
“I appreciate everything a little bit more, all of the small moments, like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired I don’t want to go to practice today,’ that has changed, honestly,” she added. “Tomorrow is not guaranteed, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. I feel a lot older somehow, too.”
On Friday, Griner’s agent published an op-ed which issued similar reasons that the women’s basketball star would stand for the anthem. But after the game was the first time the player voiced her reasoning.
This is all a far, far different stance than Griner’s only a few years ago. Then, in July of 2020, she rushed to the mics to support the anti-anthem movement and said that the league shouldn’t even play it at all, much less stand in honor for 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.”
That was before she was imprisoned by Russia and sentenced to ten years of hard labor for a cannabis-infused vape cartridge.
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., though, Griner is saying that the anthem “definitely hit different” to her than it once did.