On WNBA Opening Night, the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks walked off the court during pregame warmups before the playing of the national anthem as a protest against police brutality. Shortly thereafter, they observed a 26 second moment of silence to call attention to the killing of Breonna Taylor.
According to Mercury center Brittney Griner, that will not be the last time she engages in such a demonstration.
During a teleconference with the media, Griner spoke about leaving the court. As she explained, Griner felt that the players’ protest out to go even further:
“I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season. I think we should take that much of a stand.”
While the WNBA still plans to play the song before every game, Griner revealed that she will not be on the court for it...
“I’m going to protest regardless. 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. I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself.”
As the WNBA’s protest has made clear, The Star Spangled Banner is a symbol for a nation being confronted with the magnitude of its racist past. It was written by Francis Scott Key, a super-wealthy slave owner who advised ultra-racist President Andrew Jackson and whose brother-in-law was the Supreme Court Chief Justice who authored the Dred Scott decision.
Furthermore, the anthem’s little-known and extremely problematic third verse celebrates celebrates lethal violence against slaves. So if Griner and the WNBA were going to choose a song to protest in order to make a stand against institutionalized racism, they couldn’t have picked a better choice.