Contrary to popular belief, the national anthem and professional sports haven’t always held hands and sucked face in public.
Their entanglement began during World War I—as a means to galvanize public support for the ongoing war—and only intensified by the end of World War II after the Star-Spangled Banner officially became our national anthem in 1931. But that love affair has come under fire in recent years as national anthem protests have become the norm and could become more popular than ever after the tragic death of George Floyd.
The WNBA, however, is a different beast entirely and while other leagues have taken a knee, WNBA players kicked off their opening weekend by dedicating their season to Breonna Taylor and walking off the court before the national anthem was even played.
And if you think WNBA players have any intention of backing down from their stance, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has some news for you.
“I honestly feel we should not play the National Anthem during our season,” she told the Arizona Republic. “I think we should take that much of a stand.”
She didn’t stop there.
“I’m not going to be out there for the national anthem. If the league continues to want to play it, that’s fine. It will be all season long, I’ll not be out there,” she said. “I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself.”
Griner’s teammate, Brianna Turner, couldn’t agree more.
“I personally don’t think it belongs in sports,” she said. “When the national anthem [was] deemed the national anthem [in 1931], Black people didn’t have rights at that point. It’s hard disrespecting a song that didn’t even represent all Americans when it was first made. It’s not played at Walmart, it’s not played when you go to Six Flags. Why is it played before sporting events?”
Griner: No disrespect to military
Griner, like so many players who have protested before her, made clear that her protest doesn’t have anything to do with the military.
“I don’t mean that in any disrespect to our country,” Griner continued. “My dad was in Vietnam and a law officer for 30 years. I wanted to be a cop before basketball. I do have pride for my country.”
She believes that the anthem doesn’t represent Black Americans.
“I personally don’t think it belongs in sports. … Black people didn’t have rights at that point,” Griner said of the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner. “It’s hard disrespecting a song that didn’t even represent all Americans when it was first made.”