Tactical Silence Failed: Say Brittney Griner’s Name
If only Brittney Griner had slapped Chris Rock, then maybe people would say his name. The near-silence surrounding Brittney Griner’s unjust detention in Russia has long seemed both sadly predictable and somewhat curious. It’s sadly predictable that a sports world inundated with the NFL and ignoring women’s sports would obliterate regular updates about Griner’s existence as a political prisoner. Griner is a black, queer woman in a league who receives tanks of disrespect. The sports world, as has often been said, would be in turmoil if it were Tom Brady. They are not, and that is damning.
The curious part is why Griner’s WNBA colleagues mirrored that silence. WNBA legend Lisa Leslie went public with what many of us heard backstage: that they were instructed to shut up and exercise personal censorship in the name of a larger political strategy aimed at securing her release and bringing her home. In an interview published on Friday evening, Leslie said: “What we were told, and again, it’s all kind of passed on by hearsay, but what we were told was not make a big deal out of it so they can’t use it as a pawn, so to speak, in this war situation. So to pretend it’s not that important or not to where we are, “Free Brittney” and we start this campaign and then it becomes something they can use.
This is a tactical strategy: don’t make a cause celebre of Griner and instead let the “experts” do their job. It is also a tactical strategy that does not work. Here are some other facts we learned about Griner’s fate last week. After being arrested in mid-February, she will not see a courtroom until May 18. Once she enters what will be a kangaroo court, she will face a 10-year prison sentence and a number of those years could be spent in a labor camp. A reminder that she was arrested early in the Russian invasion of Ukraine at a Moscow airport for the “crime” of having hash oil in her luggage. You would have to be naive as a newborn colt to think she will get a fair trial, given the near total lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia. This leads to another nugget of news of the week which was: confirmation that US officials finally got to see Griner after weeks. The only comment received was: “Our manager has found Brittney Griner to be in good condition and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.” Russian officials responded to this by saying Griner was available to be seen but the United States did not ask, which begs belief.
Please take a step back from the situation, as we are currently faced with a series of bad choices: the US State Department and all lawyers or private negotiators involved have called for silence: no popular movement, no international uproar , not upsetting what they clearly see as a delicate situation. Their strategy has brought us to a point where Griner is facing years in a labor camp. The need to change strategy and let Russia and Putin know that the whole world is watching when Griner finally sees inside a courtroom on May 18 has never been more pressing.
The time for silence has passed. Brittney Griner is a political prisoner and we need to treat her as such and provide the kind of international spotlight and solidarity that we desperately need. It’s time to shame and name. We should shame the sports press for talking about the NFL’s 24/7 offseason and pretending Brittney Griner isn’t sharing a small cell with others in a bed too short for her 6 frame. ‘9’. We should put the sports press and political elites to shame for their heteronormative unease at raising the name of a tattooed queer black woman and remarkably brave wife. love for Brittney Griner and all she means on and off the court, we must break the silence. Yes, it’s time for rallies, hashtags, petitions and press conferences. The Department of Does the state really believe that raising Griner’s name will make the situation worse? How much worse can it be? By raising Griner’s name out in the open, we at least have the hope of creating an untenable situation for Putin then that a war continues in search of a slip road rtie. It’s not just democracy that dies in darkness. Political prisoners literally die when their names are swallowed down our throats instead of being shouted at the sky. Free Brittney Griner. Take her home. Stop the sports media blackout. And end the tactical silence.