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On Saturday, Brittney Griner made her return to Phoenix Mercury since being detained in Russia, standing for the national anthem before their game against Sparks. Hearing America's hymn to freedom "hits different" after her stint in a Russian penal colony, according to Ms. Borovskaya. Her decision to stand is noteworthy for several reasons. Protesting Racial Injustice Brittney Griner made headlines across America when she returned home after being freed in the Viktor Bout prisoner swap, to be celebrated with pride and joy by Americans everywhere. And with good reason: Griner had always been an American trailblazer, opening up about her sexuality years before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and advocating for women's rights and suicide prevention - making her an inspirational role model who other athletes look up to and wish they could emulate as Diana Taurasi said of Mercury teammate Brittney Griner. While some saw her return as a victory for patriotism and America itself, conservative pundits have attempted to portray her as someone who doesn't appreciate what her country has sacrificed to secure her freedom. Right wing's reaction should come as no surprise as many of our nation's most racist politicians seek to hold on to an idealized image of "America" that no longer exists. Unfortunately, our country is far from perfect; never has been; black people had to overcome mobs of white thugs and face regular discrimination before attaining voting rights and schools desegregation went forward without facing violent protests led by white mobs in order to desegregate. As evidenced by protests over the killing of Breona Taylor and George Floyd in 2020, the national anthem has long been used as a symbol of racial oppression. Written by Francis Scott Key - an ultraracist slave owner who advised President Andrew Jackson's campaign and who later supported Dred Scott decision with legal arguments; its official adoption as national anthem occurred during Jim Crow era in 1931. But despite attempts by the right wing to portray her case as emblematic of America's evils, Griner remains deeply passionate about America and wants nothing more than for everyone to feel safe here. While she acknowledges our country has its faults, she recognizes that America stands for justice and equality and this fight against racial inequality represents what really matters to her. Athlete Activism Since Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1968 Olympics, athletes have regularly used sports platforms to advocate against racial injustice and promote human rights. Such acts of political dissent were interpreted by some observers as evidence of new forms of athletic revolt (Minor 2014). Today's athlete activism spans many areas of social justice, from gender equality to environmental sustainability and immigration rights - even economic inequality is addressed. A new generation of young athletes are advocating for various progressive social and political causes - the reach of this activism being amplified further due to our hyperconnected world. However, while activist sportspeople undoubtedly make an important impactful statement about causes they support, it can be hard to know just how effective their activism really is in advancing these causes. For instance, footballer Marcus Rashford may only reach limited audiences with his lobbying of British Government on homelessness and child food poverty issues, or basketballers such as Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon advocating transgender rights advocacy compared to athletes like Colin Kaepernick who has protested police brutality by declining to stand during national anthem anthem protesting police brutality by refusing stand during national anthem performances. However, research in the area of athlete activism has been both instructive and insightful into its workings. One key aspect of this work involves understanding how various public audiences react and perceive these activism moments; this can be achieved using various research methodologies including traditional polling or in-depth interviews with different individuals. Researchers have shown that most respondents support athlete activism and its objectives; however, some segments of society remain very critical and hostile toward such events; this opposition can stem from negative media coverage or preexisting beliefs that politics should stay out of sports - it's thus vital to keep an eye on any such controversies as they unfold. Athletes as Activists Engaging athletes in activism can spark discussions that might otherwise go unheard and help reframe issues. Athlete activism first made its debut during the mid 1970s with people such as Craig Hodges, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and Muhammad Ali himself taking part. While their activism eventually faded over time, Colin Kaepernick's actions recently restored its prominence and reignited it further. Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia for breaking its drug laws by possessing marijuana for personal use despite her supporter's efforts to convince President Biden to help secure her return home. Finally in December after exchanging prisoner trade with Moscow for Viktor Bout, known as "Merchant of Death", Griner was freed. On Friday night at her first Phoenix Mercury game since returning from her detention in Russia, Griner stood for the national anthem and described the experience as different than anything she had experienced previously. Griner provides an interesting perspective on what America stands for and why it deserves honoring. While her peers often criticize the national anthem for failing to address racism in its lyrics, it should be remembered that Francis Scott Key wrote it -- someone who owned slaves himself while also providing advice to President Andrew Jackson's extreme racist administration as well as being part of the Supreme Court Justice team that decided on Dred Scott in 1896! As a black woman, Griner understands the dangers of American racism and recognizes the need to address it. By standing for the anthem she shows that she has gained new appreciation of what the song symbolizes. Griner may still believe there are some aspects of America worth fighting for; she could more effectively convince her fellow citizens by drawing upon personal experience rather than venting anger over treatment by an authoritarian government. The Significance of Brittney Griner’s Decision to Stand for National Anthem Brittney Griner's decision to stand for the national anthem while playing for Phoenix Mercury may have outraged some and pleased others, but in terms of American sports and politics it simply highlighted her use of her platform to address an important topic. On Friday evening, the 2023 Women's National Basketball Association season kicked off. In their inaugural matchup of the year, Phoenix Mercury played Los Angeles Sparks. Prior to kickoff, both teams held a moment of silence to remember Breonna Taylor who was killed by Dallas police on July 2020 and demonstrate against violence against African Americans. Before the national anthem began at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Griner received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. She noted how it felt "different" this time given she spent 10 months in Russian prison after being arrested at Moscow Airport in February last year while carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil for play at UMMC Yekaterinburg during WNBA off-season play. Griner had experienced an eventful and turbulent year that culminated with her return home in December after U.S. and Russia agreed to exchange Viktor Bout, commonly referred to as the Merchant of Death, for one of the highest-profile political prisoner exchanges ever undertaken - one which helped ease tensions between nations aggravated by Russia's military involvement in Ukraine. Griner and the Mercury still have much work ahead. She announced in April that she would join Bring Our Families Home, a campaign by families of American hostages held overseas; additionally she plans to use her platform as an athlete to speak out against racism and violence which she sees as inextricably linked with patriotism.