In 2017, Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Olympia. Although she complained of pain, doctors did not believe her. The most famous woman athlete in the world was suffering from blood clots in her lungs, but it would be hours before doctors agreed to do a CAT scan and then rush to resolve the clotting before it reached her heart. Despite all her prestige, accomplishments and celebrity, she was at the mercy of a medical system that doesn't believe Black women.
We can say the same for WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been sitting in a Russian prison for over five months now for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage - which she says was an accident. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, pled guilty to drug charges which could keep her imprisoned for up to 10 years.
We cannot be remiss in understanding how different this would be if she were Tom Brady. Taking it even further, if she were not gay; a gay Black woman; a gay, Black woman athlete during a wartime situation.
What’s more disturbing is her sole reason for even being in Russia - the gender pay gap. In 2019, nearly half of the WNBA played overseas during the off-season, because they don't get paid enough money here at home. Brittney Griner earned about $1 million annually playing in Russia, while in her last season with the Phoenix Mercury, she made just over $200,000. The average WNBA salary is only $100,000 - while the average NBA salary is over $7 million.
Black women are conditioned to having to fight to get more. Some may ask why she couldn’t be satisfied with the six-figures she had, while there’s people out here barely making ends meet. The real question is why should Black women have to settle for what they’re given? The woman who’s barely making it wants more, and why shouldn’t Brittney?
Let's be clear - Black women are not taken seriously. Not in healthcare, in sports, in the boardroom, in academia, and no one is looking for us when we go missing. In Brittney Griner’s case, is the U.S. doing everything they can to bring her home? Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner, says no: “I’m frustrated that 140 days have passed since my wife has been able to speak to me, to our family and our friends.” Griner said at a rally for her wife in Los Angeles. “I’m frustrated that my wife is not going to get justice.”
The truth is, America fails Black women in so many ways. It hasn’t figured out yet that when Black women thrive, everyone thrives. When Black women speak, we all benefit from the action behind it.
So it’s fitting that the most avid supporters of Brittney Griner are other Black women. This is what we do - we rally together and get things done, because usually we are all we've got. The hope and prayer here is that Brittney comes home sooner than later.