All American sports fans who are bleeding red, white and blue should cry out for the safe return of Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner will never make as much money in her basketball career as LeBron James makes in a single year. Maybe it’s just, a simple matter of supply and demand. Sports capitalism at work in the United States.
It is also true that the freedom of Griner, detained in Russia for more than four months for drug possession, is not valued in the United States as much as the well-being of James. And that’s just plain wrong, an indication of how emotionally bankrupt we can be in this country.
At 6-foot-9, Griner is among the all-time giants in American basketball history, leading Baylor to a college championship, winning the WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury and winning Olympic gold twice for the glory of his country.
But the way too many Americans appreciate our sports heroes, she has three strikes against her. Griner is black, gay and feminine.
Griner was caged and tried in Russia, facing 10 years in prison, for being arrested earlier this year with vaping cartridges containing 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage by customs officers at an airport in Moscow.
“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said at a post-match press conference earlier this month, telling a truth hard to deny in a country where compassion and justice are tilted heavily in favor of the rich and famous.
“It’s a statement about the value of a black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All these things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.
Griner pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis which she uses to treat chronic pain. Medical marijuana is not legal in Russia. So let this be a warning to anyone who has ever packed up in a hurry for a business trip.
In a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, Griner expressed his greatest fear: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, my Olympic jersey or any accomplishment, I’m terrified of being here forever.
She is being held in Russia as a pawn in the tension with the United States resulting from the war raging in Ukraine. Griner was lambasted at home for refusing to perform for the national anthem in protest against racism.
The economic realities of the basketball industry are the reason Griner has been playing in Russia since 2014, as her estimated $1 million salary with UMMC Ekaterinburg is four times the $227,000 she receives as a eternal star of Mercury in the United States.
By comparison, James reportedly earned more than $120 million in the past calendar year from his salary with the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as much more lucrative off-court business ventures. Forbes estimates his net worth at over $1 billion. It’s good to be King James.
While gender equality in the daily workplace can be frustrating and hard to come by, it’s hard to argue that the entertainment value provided by Griner can come close to competing with the audience James attracts for everything. he does, from dunking a basketball to approving a soda. pop to star in a B-grade movie.
So I won’t demand that Griner deserves more money to play basketball.
But I’m certainly not the first and hopefully won’t be the last to ask: why don’t we care more about bringing Griner back to the United States?
We don’t have to pay all of our sports heroes the same.
But, as compassionate-hearted Americans, shouldn’t we all loudly applaud Griner’s safe return?