2020 Tokyo Olympics: WNBA Star Sue Bird Doesn’t ‘Feel Like a Hypocrite’ Staying on Court for Anthem at Games

by Matthew Wilson

WNBA star Sue Bird doesn’t plan to protest the National Anthem at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She feels she’s representing the United States. According to Bird, it doesn’t feel right to protest on an international stage when the Olympics celebrate countries and friendly competition.

Bird and her fellow WNBA players have protested for social justice in the past. It’s an issue that Bird feels passionate about. In particular, during the 2021 season, Bird and other players have protested the National Anthem. They have usually left the court before it’s played.

But Bird doesn’t plan to leave the court during the Tokyo Olympics. Neither do her fellow players on Team USA for that matter. But Bird isn’t afraid of being called a “hypocrite” for her actions. According to Bird, her fans know where she stands on the issue. But she also feels there is a time and a place for her protests. And the Olympics just isn’t it.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday, Bird discussed how it felt to represent America on an international stage. She said it changed the conversation about what she’s representing.

“You are wearing USA jerseys, and it does change the conversation a little bit and what you’re representing,” Bird told the outlet. “With that, I don’t feel like a hypocrite in any way. Everyone knows where we stand. I don’t think it contradicts anything since we’re actually doing the work.”

Sue Bird on the Olympics

There’s also the added difficulty of protesting the National Anthem during the Tokyo Olympics. According to Fox News, the anthem plays just before the basketball game starts. It would make it difficult for a player to leave the court and return.

Likewise, the Olympics does not allow forms of protest or political gestures during official events or medical ceremonies. Instead, the organization allows such forms of protest before competitions start. For instance, the U.S. women’s soccer team chose to kneel as a form of protest before their match with Sweden earlier in the week.

But Bird chose to show a united front with her teammates. During exhibition matches, the players would lock arms prior to the tip-off. Bird also served as a flag bearer for the United States. She appeared during the parade of nations at the opening ceremony.

While she’s showing her patriotism, Bird says that her fans know how important social justice issues are to her heart.

“We all want our country to be a better place, and that’s what this is about,” Bird said. “That’s an athlete’s mentality, and there’s really no better people to do that than athletes. What do we do every single day? What do we talk about? Getting better. … I think we should approach our country that way.”