WNBA player Britney Griner said the national anthem “hit different” during a Friday press conference.
Griner, who was held in a Russian prison for 10 months over possession of an illegal substance, played her first WNBA game since returning to the United States on Friday.
The WNBA star said hearing the national anthem prior to Friday’s game “definitely hit different.”
“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,” Griner told reporters during the post-game press conference.
“Being here today … it means a lot.”
Britney Griner talking on the podium discusses about whether it felt differently when the National Anthem hit.#ValleyTogether#WNBA pic.twitter.com/G0TUMJUPG4
— Burn City Sports (@BurnCitySports) May 13, 2023
“I didn’t think I would be sitting right here. I didn’t think I would be playing basketball this quickly,” Griner said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go getting back into it. I mean, I’m grateful to be here for sure. I’m not going to take today for granted, but it was a lot to take in.”
In late-April, Griner came out in support of biological men identifying as transgender woman in women’s sports.
“That ranks high on the list of things I’ll be fighting for and speaking up against,” Griner said when asked by an ESPN reporter about advocating for transgender athletes. “Everyone deserves the right to play. Everyone deserves the right to come here, sit in these seats, and feel safe. And not feel like there’s the threat, or they can’t be who they are, or like it’s just all eyes on them.”
Brittney Griner claims it’s a “crime” to stop biological males from being able to compete against women in sports. pic.twitter.com/CTM9mV9nDz
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) April 28, 2023
“I think it’s a crime, honestly, to separate someone for any reason. So, I definitely will be speaking up against that legislation and those laws that are trying to be passed, for sure.”
In August 2021, Griner was sentenced by a Moscow court to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis into Russia. While traveling through the Sheremetyevo Airport in February, Griner was detained by police who said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested in February and pled guilty on July 7, although she testified that she had mistakenly put the CBD oil canisters in her luggage while hastily packing. Judge Anna Sotnikova also fined the professional athlete 1 million rubles – about $16,700.
In exchange for Griner’s release, the U.S. government agreed to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has been in American custody for 12 years while serving a 25-year sentence. Bout was convicted on arms charges and for conspiring to kill Americans.