UPDATE: Today, the Phoenix Mercury made it official: Brittney Griner has been re-signed, activated, and will be suiting up for them during the 2023 WNBA season.
Her first regular season game since being released from Russian prison will take place on May 19th in Los Angeles and her first home game will be Sunday, May 21st.
The Mercury celebrated the occasion on social media:
The news you’ve all been waiting for! BG will be back in a Phoenix Mercury jersey this season— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) February 21, 2023
ORIGINAL POST: May 19 promises to be one of the most important dates on the 2023 LGBTQ sports calendar. That’s the day that we as a community can band together to give Brittney Griner the welcome home she deserves.
Griner and her Phoenix Mercury teammates open their 2023 WNBA season that night against the Los Angeles Sparks. And if there’s any sense of justice in the sports world, the Sparks’ home arena will sell out to let BG know how much she means to all of us.
Just as the Mercury’s home opener two days later should be standing room only—along with just about every game they play this season.
When Griner was freed from Russian captivity, certain publicity-seeking opportunists tried to score the cheapest of political points by attacking the Biden Administration for brokering her release.
Some argued that the deal securing her freedom was lopsided, as if they were calling in to their local sports talk radio yakkers to complain that the U.S. should’ve also gotten Russia’s first round pick in the international human-rights draft.
Certain pundits like Tucker Carlson went beyond that, calling special attention to Griner’s identity as a Black lesbian and implying that her race and sexuality influenced the Biden Administration to grant her favored status.
While comments like that are clearly designed to stoke outrage, it’s very likely they’ve also filtered down to Griner in the wake of her return home. After enduring unimaginable mental trauma for the past 10 months, there are probably no words to describe how low that must make her feel.
Which comes back to why it’s so important to take advantage of this opportunity to welcome her home. We have a chance to show Griner that these scorching hot takes do not represent the majority in this country.
Her first game back on the court deserves to be the biggest feel-good moment of the year.
In sports, we often talk about how superstar players have opportunities to step their game up and deliver fans moments they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
This is that rare time where the reverse it true and fans have the chance to come through for one of the greatest players in WNBA history.
It’s especially relevant for us as LGBTQ fans, as Griner is one of the most dominant and decorated athletes to ever represent our community.
The Mercury have been using Griner’s image on their website, as a posed headshot of her with a basketball in hand adorns the banner that takes visitors to their roster page. It’s a reminder that she’s always been an important member of the team and a promise of the excitement to come when Griner gets back to where she belongs on the court.
If simply viewing Griner’s image in uniform creates such a sense of impending excitement, imagine how great it will be to see her in person once again. The sound of the crowd’s roar and the waves of emotion coursing through the arena should make her welcome home game a must-see event.
It’s rare in the sports world to buy a ticket and know you’re going to see a significant game ahead of time. Griner’s return to the WNBA is one of those opportunities.
After what Griner has endured, she should receive a welcome that goes down in basketball history. Let’s make sure that she gets it.