Griner’s story offers a lesson to the petulant and spoiled of America

By PASTOR JOHN GUANCI – June 6, 2023
The Response

A very small percentage of my 52 years has been spent with any awareness of WNBA basketball player Britany Griner. Perhaps, like many Americans, the reason I know of her at all is not because of her achievements on the court but because, in February of 2022, she was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after authorities discovered vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. It just happens that is a big NO-GO in “Mother Russia.”

The result of her infraction was to spend the next 10 months in Russia incarcerated and made an example of by the Russian authorities for a variety of reasons (i.e., she broke their laws and she’s a comparatively high profile American). From what I’ve read, she was literally kept in a cage, unable to stand-up straight or to stretch her 6’9” frame.

At the time of her arrest, and for the time of her incarceration, the news was sensational enough, even interesting, yet I was indifferent to her plight even though she was a fellow American. The reason for my indifference was pretty straight-forward; in July of 2020 Brittany didn’t think the national anthem should be played during pre-game activities during the WNBA season. She went so far as to say something to the effect that she would not be on the court for the anthem if the WNBA decided to keep playing it before the games.

She was another member of the anti-American athletic proletariat, an apparent Bolshevik as determined by her opinions, who actually lives like a bourgeoisie and protests the country in which she lives and the economic underpinnings that allow her to make a strong six figure salary for playing a game in a league that loses millions of dollars year-after-year. Talk about privilege.

Then, much to my horror, in December of 2022 Brittany Griner was involved in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has an oh-so catchy nickname, "The Merchant of Death.” So convincing was Viktor’s reputation and the evidence that gave credence to his nickname that he was convicted by a New York jury on four counts that included conspiring to kill American citizens.

At the time of the exchange, I was beside myself in disbelief because it was totally believable that the shrewd negotiators in Washington, D.C. would trade a law-breaking female basketball player for an arms dealer who wants to do nothing more than stack up American bodies like logs.

Something that I’ve come to know over the course of my lifetime is that personal growth and appreciation for the finer things in life, like not being kept in a cage, come at a price. For some, such as Griner, this realization only comes at great expense of being kept in a cage for a while.

Apparently, this is true because recently Brittany Griner changed her tune and plans to stand for the playing of the national anthem during the 2023 season; that symphony of sound that proclaims to the world that Americans have the right to protest without being placed in a cage – that our actions and opinions cannot be challenged without due process.

These rights have been described recently as uniquely American. But, while they are uniquely observed in America they are not American; rather, they are unalienable rights that are given by our Creator and are not extended to us by any form of government and are extended beyond our borders. People can be deprived of these rights by force, and often are, but they cannot actually be alienated from them; these rights are ours without exception and without question.

This is the great conclusion that I’ve come to at the time of this writing: I’m grateful that Brittany Griner was kept in a cage because this is what it took for her to come to the conclusion that the national anthem is worth standing for and America is worthy of our affections and that the nation she protests and even loathes gives her the freedom to hold it in contempt. All of which sounds much more magnanimous than being stuffed into a cage until further notice.

This wonderful experiment in democratic republicanism is a process by which we seek “…to form a more perfect Union” and “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

So let each American stand for the playing of the national anthem. Let us respect and honor the Stars and Stripes. Let our hearts be grieved for the men and women who have died defending the freedoms we enjoy; those that so many hold cheap and would sooner discard than admit they were wrong to have sullied the beauty of our red, white and blue. Yes, let us pray and take a moment of silent remorse for the loved ones they left behind; those who carry daily the burden of our liberty.

Yes, debate with civility, live in liberty, peaceably protest on your own time and your own dime; but this we must do, amidst our disagreements we must come together under the banner of belief that America is good and her cause, this great experiment of human liberty before God must be honored and in doing so let us pursue the words of President Lincoln during his Second Inaugural Address, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

It is a blessing to us all for Brittany Griner to tell her story of an epiphany borne in the trial of incarceration. Her story is worthy of sharing in all forms of media and in all social platforms with the hope that the petulant and spoiled of our shores will come to know and appreciate the blessings afforded by the hand of God and the blood of patriots lest they require learning this lesson for themselves with suffering of their own.