After spending almost 10 months locked away in Russian custody, WNBA star Brittney Griner said that the national anthem now has a completely new meaning in her first pre-season game, according to CBS Sports.
Playing against the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday (May 12), Griner scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds as the Phoenix Mercury lost the contest 90-71.
Following the game, Griner shared the impact of hearing the national anthem before her long-awaited return.
“I’m grateful to be here, that’s for sure. I’m not going to take a day for granted,” Griner said after the game. “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.”
“I didn’t think I would be playing basketball this quickly,” Griner continued. “Even coming back, I didn’t know how it was going to go getting back into it.”
Although she lauded the play of her teammates, Griner stated that she is still working on her game after a lengthy hiatus.
“Not where I want it to be, but on the right track,” she said. “We’re making the right moves.”
In her first team press conference in April, the eight-time All-Star said that she had no intentions of playing overseas again.
“I can say, for me, I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics,” she said at the time.
Griner’s recent comments has conveyed her new stance on the national anthem. During the bubble season of 2020, she questioned whether the anthem should be played before WNBA games and protested by staying in the locker while it played.
“I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season,” Griner explained. “I think we should take that much of a stand. I don’t mean that in any disrespect to our country. My dad was in Vietnam and was a law officer for 30 years. I wanted to be a cop before basketball. I do have pride for my country.
“I personally don’t think it belongs in sports,” she added. “When the national anthem deemed the National Anthem (in 1931), Black people didn’t have rights at that point. It’s hard disrespecting a song that didn’t even represent all Americans when it was first made.”
Griner will join her team on May 19 when the Mercury take on the Los Angeles Sparks to open the 2023 WNBA regular season.