In her inaugural 2023 WNBA regular-season appearance on Friday, seven-time All-Star Brittney Griner wasted no time in making an impact.

Griner delivered a performance worth 18 points, six rebounds, and four shot blocks in her first official game following a nearly 10-month-long imprisonment in Russia.

Prior to the kick-off against the Los Angeles Sparks, Griner made a stand during the national anthem, notwithstanding the Mercury’s 94-71 defeat.

“You have the right to protest, the right to able to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things,” Griner said, according to ESPN. “What I went through and everything, it just means a little bit more to me now. So I want to be able to stand. I was literally in a cage [in Russia] and could not stand the way I wanted to.

“Just being able to hear my national anthem, see my flag, I definitely want to stand. Now everybody that will not stand or not come out, I totally support them 100 percent. That’s our right, as an American in this great country.”

Griner found herself in trouble with the law in February 2022 when Russian authorities at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow uncovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her possession.

Her release from Russian custody came in December, after an arduous period of negotiation, with the Biden administration consenting to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer previously convicted.

“I appreciate everything a little bit more, all of the small moments, like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired I don’t want to go to practice today,’ that has changed, honestly,” she said. “Tomorrow is not guaranteed, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. I feel a lot older somehow, too.”

In July 2020, Griner made her sentiments known regarding the national anthem, stating that she didn’t believe it should be played during the WNBA season and affirmed that she would not be on the court if it continued to be performed prior to matches.

However, a change of heart was elucidated in an op-ed penned by Griner’s agent in Time on Friday, elucidating why Griner has decided to stand for the national anthem throughout the 2023 WNBA season.

“Last year, most WNBA teams chose to remain in their locker rooms during the national anthem, in a gesture of unified protest against the incongruity between the values the anthem signifies and the realities for Black people in America,” Lindsay Kagawa Colas wrote. “This year, as so much remains unchanged, some teams or players may do the same. Others may sit or kneel. Still others, including Brittney Griner, plan to stand up — physically for the anthem itself and symbolically for the rights of their peers to make themselves heard and express dissent loudly and boldly, and in accordance with the proudest traditions of this country, however they see fit.”

The Phoenix Mercury team is set to make its home debut for the 2023 season this Sunday, going up against the Chicago Sky.