February 17th, 2022, professional basketball player, Brittney Griner, was detained in Russia. It is now July and at the time of writing this, she has yet to be released. Yes, this is a tragedy and she should be home and there is some validity to the points about if this was Lebron James or Stephen Curry they would be home.
They are more than likely right.
And along with that, it’s important we don’t gloss over the real issue at hand: The reason she had to be in Russia playing basketball, in the first place. In today’s world when someone says “Professional athlete” what image does that conjure? Celebrity, wealth, status, power, etc. We are used to seeing professional athletes on magazine covers and/or on commercials; they have become paragons of our society — and it’s usually a man.
How many people even knew who Brittney Griner was before all of this happened?
In 2016, members of the U.S.A. Women’s Soccer team, filed a complaint claiming that women were being paid less than their counterparts on the men’s team. It was cited that this was the case even though the Women’s team had been bringing in more revenue than the mens team. In February of 2022, they signed a settlement that includes back pay to female players and terms that require equal pay for male and female athletes.
But it was never about the money; it was always about respect.
If we look at Brittney Griner and the WNBA specifically, there is a vast pay gap between her pay and what NBA players are making. And it is valid to acknowledge the differences in revenue for the NBA vs the WNBA. But again, this isn’t about money. It’s about respect. It’s about how we view women and sports and what we think they “deserve”. Women are making the same sacrifices that Men are making to be great at their respective sports — maybe even moreso. Whether we know it or not, when we discuss equal pay, we are discussing what we value.
The WNBA has been doing an amazing job of sharing their stories and highlighting their individual athletes. That storytelling has brought a new energy to the league. But there is still so much more to do. I made a comment on an instagram post about something I saw while watching a WNBA game and someone responded to me by saying, “You actually watched a WNBA game?”
I’ve started watching to appreciate Women and their contributions for the athletes they are and not in comparison to what I think is “superior”.