We bring news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and entertained.

Terms of Use and Privacy Policy Agreement

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY! Please check your email for confirmation from us.
OPINION: Just because WNBA star Brittney Griner is now standing up for the national anthem doesn’t mean she isn’t still standing up for social justice.
We wouldn’t have to talk about who stands during the national anthem and who sits/kneels/stays away during the national anthem if it weren’t played to death. 
Blame sporting events. Between youth games, college games and pro games, we’re deluged with the Star Spangled Banner every day of every year.
Oh say, can we stop?
If not, can folks stop giving a damn about an individual’s posture during the song?
WNBA superstar Brittney Griner is back on the court after nearly 10 months as a prisoner in Russia. And what she did prior to tipoff earned equal billing with her exploits during the Phoenix Mercury’s season-opener on May 19.
She stood for the national anthem. Previously, she stayed in the locker room — like many WNBA players — to show solidarity with social justice activists declaring that Black Lives Matter. Just like that, she reignited the debate on proper protocol when Francis Scott Key’s biggest hit is played.
“Griner’s experience at the hands of an authoritarian state seems to have changed her perspective on the flag, what it means, and why American honor it,” wrote Dominic Pino in the National Review. “Welcome back to the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
That sort of pablum turns my stomach, boils my blood and grinds my gears. KRS-One delivered a more apt description of Amerikkka when he called it the “land of the thief, home of the slave.”
Once again, I’m reminded of an incident at the nationally acclaimed City of Palms high school basketball tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. I covered that event for several years in the aughts — a decade before Colin Kaepernick took a knee — and enjoyed watching future NBA lottery picks like John Wall, Greg Monroe and Kevin Love.
Each year, a few men near the front row chose to remain seated during the anthem. No one seemed to mind their custom until one day when a young man yelled across the court: “Stand up!”
The loudmouth was unprepared for the swift comeback: “Go serve a tour in Iraq like I did! I’ll sit if I want to, mofo!” (I’m not 100% certain he said the last word but it feels right.)
Veterans and everyone else have every right to sit, just like Kaepernick and everyone else have every right to kneel. After enduring a terrifying ordeal overseas, Griner is free to do neither or either or stand. 
But don’t get it twisted; she’s still down with the cause.
“You have the right to protest, the right to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things,” she said after the season opener, which attracted Vice President Kamala Harris, South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. 
“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. “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.”
Fake patriots and true bigots love to agree if/when we call this a “great country,” as if that miraculously erases all the hell we’ve caught on these shores from Day one. But Griner and I agree with James Baldwin’s resolute assertion, that loving America comes with the insistent right to perpetually criticize her. 
You can stand for the anthem and still point out America’s glaring racial inequalities in health, wealth, housing, justice, employment, education, etc.
It’s not an either/or proposition.
“Others may sit or kneel,” Grier’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas writes in Time. “Still others, including Brittney Griner, plan to stand up — physically for the anthem itself and symbolically for the rights of their peers to make themselves heard and express dissent loudly and boldly, in accordance with the proudest traditions of this country, however they see fit.”
You can’t be in your right mind and criticize Griner for standing. We can only imagine what she experienced in Russia — which doesn’t look kindly on lesbians or Black people — convicted on drug charges and sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.
Freedom isn’t free, and Lord knows we’ve paid for our portion in blood, sweat and lives. No doubt Griner has a newfound appreciation for American soil, with its shortcomings and all. You would, too.
Colas writes that Griner is making a statement “by standing tall for uniquely American freedoms — the most important of which being the absolute and inviolable and constitutionally protected freedom to stand, sit, kneel, praise, protest, and otherwise make your voice heard.” 
We hear you, Brittney, loud and clear.
Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.
TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!