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WNBA player Brittney Griner predicted she will be overcome with "emotions" upon hearing the national anthem when playing for Team USA at the 2024 Olympics.
"I didn’t think I would ever wear this jersey again. I didn’t know what the future was," Griner said, according to CNN. "It’s just a different feeling when you’re playing with USA at the Olympics, representing the whole country when everybody’s tuning in," she added.
Griner previously protested "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the 2020 WNBA season, when she said there was no valid reason for the anthem to be heard before games and stayed in her team's locker room when it played.
“I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season,” Griner said, according to Washington Post. “I think we should take that much of a stand.”
Griner's team, the Phoenix Mercury, protested the anthem on behalf of Breonna Taylor, a woman who died during a gunfight between her boyfriend and police during the execution of search warrant related to drug trafficking. The man reportedly thought police were intruders and fired first, shooting one officer in the arm.
"I’m not going to be out there for the national anthem. If the league continues to want to play it, that’s fine," she added. "It will be all season long, I’ll not be out there. I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself," Griner explained.
She did, however, carve out at the time a caveat for the Olympics specifically. "At the Olympics, I understand you’re playing for your country at that point." She later added, "We should not play the national anthem during our season."
Griner showed signs of changing her mind after being arrested and held in Russia on drug charges and was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison in August 2022.
Four months later, the United States exchanged Russian prisoner and arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was allegedly set for a 2029 release, for Griner's return. "He was going to get out in 2029. So at some point in the not too distant future, he would have been a free man," said National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby.
Upon her return to the United States, Griner softened her stance on the anthem and said it "hit different" when she heard it before a game.
When asked to predict her mood if she plays in the 2024 Olympics, Griner said that "listening to our anthem and watching the flag go up, it’s gonna be a lot of emotions. I probably won’t be able to hold that one back."
“It’s gonna be a lot. Very, very, very few people will understand that emotion.”
Griner is reportedly in the process of writing a book about her Russian detention.
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