Why Did Brittney Griner Need 10 Months in Russia to Want to Stand for the Anthem?

Following her nearly year-long incarceration in Russia, WNBA athlete Brittney Griner appears to have undergone a profound change of heart, displaying a renewed sense of appreciation for the United States of America. As a testament to this transformation, Griner has decided to stand for the national anthem, a gesture she made prior to her game on Friday, which also marked her debut for the 2023 season with the Phoenix Mercury.

“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.”

Griner had previously engaged in years of protest against the United States by refusing to stand during the national anthem.

“Just being able to hear my national anthem, see my flag, I definitely want to stand,” she said. “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.”

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In February 2022, Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Authorities had discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage, leading to her arrest. Griner had pleaded guilty before being sentenced to nine years in prison and being sent to a forced-labor camp. After months of tense negotiations, Griner’s detainment in Russia finally came to an end in December. However, the resolution was met with controversy, as her release was achieved after the Biden administration made the controversial decision to exchange Griner for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer. Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” is a former Soviet military officer who, up until his release, was serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for crimes that included plotting to murder Americans, obtaining and transferring anti-aircraft missiles, and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Flashback: ‘Merchant of Death’ Swapped for Brittney Griner Wants to Join Fight Against Ukraine

The Biden administration faced significant criticism because it failed to repatriate Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia as part of the deal. Whelan has been detained in Russia since 2018 and is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage.

“This was not a choice about which American to bring home,” Biden claimed in Decemeber. “Sadly and for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”

Whelan remains in Russia to this day.

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

While it’s a good thing that Brittney Griner has had this mea culpa, why did take ten months of incarceration in Russia for her to have this epiphany? It shouldn’t take spending ten months in a Russian prison for someone to appreciate the United States. The country did not undergo a significant change during her incarceration; rather, Griner’s perspective did. So, Instead of focusing on why she is standing now, we ought to examine why she chose not to stand before. The reason is simple. Young people are being taught that the United States is unjust and racist, and they perceive themselves as enlightened and independent thinkers by virtual signaling their “outrage” at their own country, despite the opportunities it has provided them.

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