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Phoenix Mercury superstar Brittney Griner marked a successful return to the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday, her first since being released from a Russian penal colony last December. This news item is brought to you by CNN .
She return to the WNBA after her time in a Russian prison has been nothing short of triumphant. Despite concerns about her performance on the court, she has already proven herself and even earned a spot in the league’s All-Star team.
Brittney Griner says she appreciates ‘everything because tomorrow’s not guaranteed’. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP
Prior to her imprisonment, Griner was at the top of her game. She had an outstanding WNBA season, leading her team, the Phoenix Mercury, to the finals and garnering accolades as the Most Valuable Player runner-up. Her success extended beyond the WNBA, as she achieved Euro League titles with Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg during her WNBA off-seasons.
Challenging Personal Journey
Griner’s rise to prominence was not without its challenges. Brittney Griner faced bullying and discrimination throughout her life due to her identity as a gay African American woman. However, she courageously came out as gay shortly after being drafted into the WNBA, becoming one of the first openly gay athletes in professional North American sports.
Back on the Court
Following her release from prison, Griner expressed her intention to return to the WNBA. Despite the uncertainty surrounding her after such a trying experience, she made a remarkable comeback. In her first game back, she showcased her skills with 18 points, six rebounds, and four blocks.
Griner’s performance on the court has been exceptional. She is currently averaging 19.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.4 blocks, shooting at a career-high 61.8%. Her dominance in the post and defensive prowess have solidified her position as the Mercury’s best player. She has also been named an All-Star starter.
Positive Impact on the Team
Griner’s return has brought not only impressive skills but also a contagious enthusiasm and spirit to the Mercury and the WNBA. She uplifts her teammates, displays her trademark smile, and brings a positive energy to the locker room. Her presence has revitalized the team.
Revitalizing the WNBA
Griner’s comeback has generated increased attention for the WNBA. Attendance numbers have risen, and television viewership across ESPN networks has seen a significant boost of 49% compared to the previous season. Her return has filled a void that was felt in the league and has reignited excitement among fans and players.
Brittney Griner with her wife, Cherelle, after a game earlier this season. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP
Advocacy for Athlete Treatment
Griner’s experience has also shed light on the treatment of athletes in the WNBA. Her imprisonment has prompted the league to address issues such as pay and travel standards, aiming to improve conditions for players. The incident underscored the financial challenges faced by many female basketball players who need to play internationally during the offseason.
Addressing Pay and Travel Standards
Griner’s situation exposed the disparities in salaries between the WNBA and international leagues. While her salary in Russia exceeded $1 million, she earns significantly less in the WNBA. This financial necessity for players to seek opportunities overseas has compelled the league to reassess and make improvements in terms of pay and travel standards.
Creating Change and Progress
The WNBA has made strides in improving player treatment and conditions. Charter flights have been introduced for back-to-back games and playoff matches, and a public chartering service called JSX has been made available for team travel. These changes have been a step in the right direction and have been influenced by Griner’s experience.
Brittney Griner’s triumphant return to the WNBA serves as an inspiration to athletes and fans alike. Overcoming personal challenges and a difficult prison experience, she has made a remarkable comeback on the court, revitalizing her team and the league. Her journey has also brought attention to important issues within the WNBA, leading to positive changes and progress.