WNBA star Brittney Griner stood for the national anthem Friday before her team’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
The action marked the first time in years Griner has stood for the anthem. It followed her rescue by the US government in a prisoner exchange after she was convicted by a Russian court of drug possession, sentenced to ten years of hard labor, and incarcerated in that country.
“You have the right to protest, the right to able to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things,” Griner said after the game. “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 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%. That’s our right, as an American in this great country,” she said.
Griner said her ordeal in Russian prison has instilled a new sense of gratitude.
“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.”
Griner was once a staunch supporter of national anthem protests, and said players should not stand and the song shouldn’t be played before games.