‘I Definitely Want To Stand’: Brittney Griner Sees U.S. Flag And Anthem Differently After Russian Imprisonment
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury controls the ball against Joyner Holmes #24 of the Los Angeles Sparks in the first half at Arena on May 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

WNBA player Brittney Griner says her time in a Russian prison has changed her perspective on the American flag and the national anthem: after promising to protest the traditional pregame anthem in 2020, she said this season she is ready to stand.

The Phoenix Mercury star center spent nearly ten months imprisoned in Russia after she was caught in February of 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport — while traveling to play basketball — with cannabis oil in vape canisters. She was returned to the United States after President Joe Biden’s administration agreed to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to secure her freedom.

When she was finally able to return to play basketball, however, she said that the national anthem “hit different” than it had before her arrest. She explained that while she would never tell others that they should not protest in whatever way they saw fit, she was ready to stand for the anthem when it played.

“You have the right to protest, the right to able to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things. 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,” she explained to ESPN.

“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.”

“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. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. I feel a lot older somehow, too,” she said.

Griner had opted not to stand for the anthem in 2020, saying that if the league continued to play it prior to every game, she simply would not come out to the court until it was over.

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