I sympathize with Brittney Griner. The WNBA star currently detained in Russia is arguably the face of her sport. This week Griner pleaded guilty in court to possession of hash oil upon her entry to Russia. She has been detained for several weeks now; her and her family have made several pleas to the Biden administration to step in and free her, which they should — without giving up notorious Russian arms dealers or criminals. (President Biden, meanwhile, has been remarkably lenient towards the Russian nationals who use illicit substances with his son — but that’s a tale for another time.)
The conflict in Ukraine and the Biden administration’s proxy war against Russia complicates this matter further — once again, Biden and his State Department find themselves in a jam.
The sensitive diplomatic work of bringing Griner home is vital. But alone it is not important enough for the national media, who would prefer to view the Griner case through the same narrow scope of racial grievances. It’s not enough to suggest the Biden administration appears to be once again dragging its feet and acting without a sense of urgency. For some members of the media, the very country, the United States and the people who reside in it, is also responsible for Griner’s detainment. The reason, they say, is because we are a racist institution, and to a minor degree, a sexist one as well. Apparently Griner’s ongoing detention in Russia for her own actions is the fault of white male privilege, just like everything else.
According to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, “If Brittney Griner were Tom Brady, America would be losing its mind…Where is the outrage over the hostage superstar? I think I know…” This Tom Brady analogy grossly oversimplifies the Griner case and the geopolitical tectonics it involves.
Plaschke’s headline asks, “Brittney Griner pleads for freedom, but is America listening?” What does this have to do with “America”? Does Bill Plaschke want you or me to start making phone calls to the Russian Embassy, through which the Biden administration has already botched a phone call between Griner and her family back home?
The episode is reminiscent of back in 2014, when First Lady Michelle Obama offered the country a pouty expression and held up a piece of paper bearing the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, in response to the mass kidnapping of eighteen girls by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria. Who specially was Obama referring to? To paraphrase comedian Bill Burr at the time, she’s married to the guy who can send a SEAL team in to rescue them. Who is she making her plea to? Did she think Boko Haram is monitoring hashtags on Twitter?
To Plaschke and other members of the race- and equity-obsessed media, Griner’s ongoing detainment is a reflection of a racist, sexist America. Several professional athletes have spoken out on Griner’s behalf, including Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Plaschke, who you’ll be stunned to learn is white, went on to scold the country itself: “She’s Black. She’s covered in tattoos. She has dreadlocks. She’s gay. She doesn’t fit America’s image of the ideal female athlete, so America is pretty much shrugging.” Once again he doesn’t offer solutions about what “America” should be doing about this.
Griner’s predicament is in the hands of the Biden administration diplomats working on her freedom. It is not a reflection of America’s ongoing racial struggle (side note: how are race relations in Russia, by the way?). However, because Plaschke and other members of our media are likely supporters of President Biden and his election, they cannot point the finger squarely where it belongs. Instead they place the blame on you and me.
But these members of the media are simply following the rules of their entire industry which are dictated by the protests that followed George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis two summers ago. In a city run by progressive Democratic mayors and council members for decades, Floyd’s murder could not simply be the fault of a police officer — blame had to be lain at the feet of a racist country and system.
Griner should be brought home and her release should be reasonably secured — but doing so is the sole responsibility of the Biden administration. Perhaps they can try another hashtag. #BringBackOurBrittney