Griner’s situation seems almost as absurd, but it’s no laughing matter. It’s exasperating and heartbreaking for her family, friends and WNBA colleagues, many of whom, like Griner, played for Russian professional women’s basketball teams because of the gender pay gap
in the United States.
Diplomacy will help. Social media won’t. Outrage
over the internet about Briner’s situation may comfort and embolden her family and friends. But those actively working for her return home already know how many share their pain.
Inevitably, there’s been a backlash toward this support of Griner, some attacking her for her outspoken views on racial justice and police brutality. During the 2020 WNBA season, she and Phoenix Mercury teammate Brianna Turner said they would remain in their locker rooms during the National Anthem
to protest the shooting death that year of Breonna Taylor
by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Yeah, we’re here to play basketball,” Griner said at a news conference
at the time. “But basketball doesn’t mean anything in a world where we can’t just live. We can’t wake up and do whatever we want to do. Go for a run, go to the store to buy some candy, drive your car without the fear of being wrongfully pulled over.”
Some have used her stance as an excuse not to support Griner, to paraphrase roughly, “She doesn’t support America. Why should America support her?” Other platforms have said she’s getting this attention because of her fame — even though her “fame” hasn’t helped her thus far. They ask why she was in Russia in the first place. (Um, she needed to work?)
But why go on? Ultimately, it buttresses what I’ve already suggested about the futility of social media, except as a conduit for our own feelings and attitudes. Nothing more.
At this point, only one assertion really matters: Griner, whether you agree with her or not, is an American citizen. She is one of us, a child raised among us growing into a person with her own beliefs, profession, marriage
She deserves consideration as such from every other citizen whatever their beliefs. What she doesn’t deserve is to be made a pawn in a foreign country’s geopolitical agenda or, for that matter, anybody’s surrogate for a sociopolitical grievance or private prejudice
Vent, declaim, decry or advocate — that’s what we do in this country with or without Instagram or Twitter. But never forget that something very human is being terribly, heartbreakingly violated by this process, whatever or whoever’s laws have been broken.
And remember that whatever happens — or doesn’t — isn’t in our control, but in the hands of lawyers, diplomats and others like them who are not now or may never be able to disclose the full story, even if they succeed in getting Griner out.
One thing I remain certain of: It won’t take nine years. That’s my prediction, and I’m sticking with it.