How Black Women Athletes Are Attacked And Devalued

The imprisonment of American basketball player Brittney Griner

Photos: YouTube
This is a world of anti-Blackness, one where the contributions of African people and of the African diaspora are erased, stolen, or undervalued. This is doubly so for Black women across the globe and it is quite apparent in the way Black women athletes are treated. Their achievements cannot be celebrated without a hypercriticism of their athletic flaws, or without an extensive critique of their looks or their alleged lack of femininity.

The imprisonment of American basketball player Brittney Griner is one recent example. Her six-foot-nine frame (206 centimetres tall), her queerness, and her Blackness already stood against her in an anti-Black, anti-queer, and misogynistic world. As an all-time-great in the WNBA, she earned just $250,000 a year so she had to travel to Russia – where racism and homophobia abound – to play in a local basketball team for an additional $1.5m.

In February, just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian authorities imprisoned her to use her as a political pawn in their conflict with the West, without regard to her physical, psychological, or spiritual health. The US hasn’t valued Griner as a person either, missing scheduled telephone calls and infrequently checking in on her. That President Joe Biden finally met with her wife, Cherelle Griner, in mid-September does not negate the lack of value placed on her mental health, career, and life in the serious game of geopolitical posturing.

This isn’t just the problem of one uniquely gifted Black athlete. The misogynoir that women athletes face the world over devalues their successes, the difficulties they have experienced, and the hard work they have put in to compete domestically and internationally.
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