Sports

If Brittney Griner were Kevin Love she’d already be home

A reminder of who’s missing as Brittney Griner awaits trial in Russia.
Image: Getty Images

Black people have it hard. Black women have it harder. Black gay women have it the hardest. It’s tough being a triple minority in America, but especially in Russia.

After the news that Brittney Griner’s detaiment has been extended, and that Russia has denied all three of the U.S. Embassy’s attempts to visit her, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has announced that the league will work “side by side” with the WNBA in hopes of bringing her home.

“We’ve been in touch with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” Silver told ESPN. “Our No. 1 priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.”

If you haven’t noticed, that whole “staying quiet” about her situation idea hasn’t worked, now it’s been time to get loud. And as we send “thoughts and prayers’’ her way, in hopes that more media attention and the added muscle that the NBA can flex will end this nightmare, it’s really hard to think about how Brittney Griner wouldn’t be in this situation if she wasn’t “Brittney Griner.” Sure, we can spend time discussing the wage gap or why America just doesn’t seem to love the WNBA as it should — which would increase salaries and keep players home — but if we want to have an honest conversation about this, it’s based on the fact that Griner is Black, tall, and a lesbian.

A 6-foot-9 Black woman with visible tattoos, dreadlocks, and a confident and cool masculine energy — that Putin wishes he had — who is open about the life she leads and who she loves, is the perfect “type” for a rich Russian dictator to make an example out of, all the while knowing that she isn’t the “type” that her country would do anything for to free.

If this was Nancy Kerrigan, she would be home already. And If the genders were reversed, this would never happen to Kevin Love.

But, Carron, what does Kevin Love have to do with this?

Nothing.

However, his career is very similar to Griner’s, and it’s a great example of how race and gender play a role in how this story has been covered, and the extent of the resources that have been used and unused to free Griner. For instance, Love and Griner are almost the same height, as Griner is listed once inch taller than the 6-foot-8 Love. Both of them were McDonald’s All-Americans in high school, were a big reason why their team made it to the Final Four in college, made an impact in changing how the power forward/center positions are played, and they’ve both won championships in the NBA and WNBA.

Straight white men with that kind of basketball resume don’t find themselves locked in Russian jails for months over “weed oil.” Besides, the NBA is the one place on Earth where Love is a minority, given the small number of American-born white players that thrive in his league. A player that looks like Love and has his pedigree and resume would never be over in Russia playing because they’d get to spend their offseason as a multimillionaire working in the wine industry, as Love does as a partner with Chosen Family Wines.

This isn’t about Black or white, or man or woman. It’s about the privilege that gets bestowed upon certain people by society when you’re of a certain race, gender, or sexual identity. Kevin Love hasn’t done anything wrong here, but he is a great example of someone with a similar resume to Griner’s that would never be in the same situation she’s in. And while it’s great that the NBA, WNBA, and other government officials are working to free Griner, we need to also realize that this is a great opportunity to change things here in America so that the next Brittney Griner never has to play in Russia again.


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