If it weren’t for her political antics, most whites wouldn’t know who Brittney Griner is. Most Americans could probably name a few NBA players, but far fewer can name players or even the teams in the WNBA. Perhaps for that reason, the WNBA is pushing leftist politics. It’s working. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2020:
Viewership for the WNBA Finals grew 15% from the previous year when almost all other leagues were experiencing significant viewership decline. Off the court, unapologetic advocacy from players for Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter and voting rights bolstered the WNBA’s image as a leader in social justice.
Many companies are championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the wake of 2020, which should make the WNBA and its players prime targets for endorsement deals from brands looking to connect with younger, digitally-savvy and predominantly female customers.
“We’re the league that [says] put your money where your mouth is,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.
Standing for the national anthem is a harmless citizenship ritual — the bare minimum to show respect for the country. Despite the vast federal bureaucracy and corporate patronage meant to uplift blacks, this simple gesture is too much for many of them. Professional athletes, most notably former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have been refusing to stand for the national anthem for years. U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe — a white lesbian and thus part of the Coalition of the Oppressed — refuses to sing the anthem.
Miss Griner “stood up” in 2020: “I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season. I think we should take that much of a stand.” She said that while she has “pride for my country,” she opposed the Star-Spangled Banner because it “didn’t even represent all Americans when it was first made.”
White advocates would agree. The Founders started a white nation. Blacks understand this even if most white conservatives don’t. It’s not surprising she’s repelled by early American history. Still, the fact remains that the federal government today gives blacks many special benefits, and the media’s worshipful attitude towards them means they get huge public relations campaigns if they get in trouble. Miss Griner now has the federal government working hard on her behalf — something a white person wouldn’t get.
Miss Griner recently pled guilty to bringing a small amount of cannabis oil into Russia, and a judge sentenced her to nine years in prison. She claims she didn’t intentionally bring it; she was packing in a hurry. It’s hard not to have some sympathy for her; less than a gram of cannabis oil is hardly “drug smuggling.” A nine-year sentence after a guilty plea is harsh, but she admitted she broke the law. She’s not a political prisoner.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reportedly negotiating a deal with Russia in which she will be exchanged for the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout. Another American, Paul Whelan, may also be released. Russia locked him up for espionage — a charge he’s always denied — and he got 16 years in prison. The former Marine was left behind in a previous prisoner exchange that freed Trevor Reed. Though he is just a footnote in Miss Griner’s saga, he can be grateful for her sloppy packing; it apparently spurred the American government finally to try to free him.
Letting Viktor Bout go would be a bitter pill for the federal government. Mr. Bout is the inspiration for the Nicholas Cage film Lord of War. He played a central role in supplying weapons in conflicts in Africa, Asia, and South America. He may still have geopolitical importance.
He reportedly has ties to Russian intelligence, but it’s not clear why he is so important to the Russians. The federal government is so determined to hurt Russia that it is sending billions of taxpayer dollars to Ukraine and has imposed sanctions that are helping increase food and energy costs in the United States and Europe. Freeing Mr. Bout undoes the DEA operation that captured him years ago. Russia may even get another prisoner back along with Mr. Bout depending on negotiations. It’s not an equal trade; Mr. Bout (and whoever goes with him) can do more for the Kremlin than Miss Griner can ever do for the United States.
Protected classes come before national interests. Miss Griner is a two-fer — a black lesbian — so her well-being is especially important. GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National LGBTQ Task Force all blasted the sentencing. “Queer Black women and nonbinary people say her verdict is personal,” said web publication the19th. Vox admits the potential prisoner trade is lopsided, especially because Mr. Bout “may be responsible for the deaths of maybe tens of thousands of brown people around the world.” Yet according to podcast host Sean Rameswaram at Vox, the trade is “necessary” because Miss Griner is a “gay woman, well-identified, being held in a society where at least the upper echelons are extremely anti-gay, anti-LGBT community.” Will Russian elites have her tortured?
The WNBA, naturally, is also pushing for her. Her coach, Vanessa Nygaard, asked rhetorically that “if it was LeBron [James], he’d be home, right?” That’s doubtful. If LeBron James brought drugs into Russia and were arrested, the Kremlin would probably be asking for even more prisoners in return. Miss Nygaard implies America has already failed. “It’s a statement about the value of women,” she said. “It’s a statement about the value of a black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”
In Russia, it’s probably about a professional athlete bringing in illegal drugs. It’s also about an American citizen the Kremlin can use to win concessions. All the Kremlin sees is the flag Miss Griner won’t stand for. The drama of professional athletes complaining about the injustice of straight white males doesn’t translate into Russian.
There’s another white American trapped in Russia. Unlike Mr. Whelan, she’ll probably be left behind no matter what happens. Sarah Krivanek apparently was “desperate” to leave Russia because of a bad relationship. In November 2021, after a fight with Mikhail Karavaev, Russian authorities charged her with “threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm.” She may have used a knife, but the man withdrew his complaint and took responsibility for the fight. Based on the little that’s known publicly, the Russian government may have railroaded her.
Miss Krivank was released on bail after she promised to stay in Moscow. Instead, she tried to flee and was arrested at the airport. The US government gave her money for the trip, but the Embassy later said it didn’t know she was supposed to stay in Moscow. People quoted Chris Costa, an intelligence veteran, who explained that the federal government doesn’t consider her “wrongfully detained.” That’s a special category meaning that a foreign government is holding someone specifically to force the American government to change its policy. The United States can’t intervene in other nations’ legal systems, so declaring someone “wrongfully detained” implies the foreign government is not obeying its own laws and is simply punishing Americans to pressure Washington.
Is Miss Griner “wrongfully detained”? Whatever you think of Russian drug laws, she broke them. I’ve seen no evidence Paul Whelan ever admitted guilt and Trump Administration officials insisted on his innocence. When Russia convicted Mr. Whelan on espionage in June 2020, it reportedly broached the idea of a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a man convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine. We apparently couldn’t stomach that, but an exchange is back on the table to save a black lesbian “star.”
As a member of two protected groups and in a league that pushes left-wing politics, Miss Griner has a mass following that can push the American government to act swiftly. There was no such urgency for Paul Whelan and there’s been practically none for Sarah Krivnek. They are white and so don’t seem important to their government, even though their prosecutions appear flimsier than the open-and-shut case against Miss Griner.
Black Lives Matter cultural poison hasn’t sickened Mother Russia yet, so appeals to woke doctrines won’t cause President Putin to have a change of heart. Instead, Miss Griner must trust in the hard power of America, expressed in all its imperialist glory. She’ll probably come home while at least one white American stays behind. Her life matters to our leaders; others’ don’t, or at least not as much. What are the chances Miss Griner changes her views on the national anthem?