A Macy Gray keyboardist was forced to flip his shirt for an appearance on NBC’s Today Show because it wore “Free Brittney Griner.”
Keyboardist Billy Wes showed up to the performance in a black shirt with ‘Free Brittney Griner’ in bold white lettering across the front, but during the appearance he was wearing a plain black shirt.
Wes told TMZ after the show “They said I couldn’t wear it.”
NBC did not respond to MailOnline’s requests for comment on why Wes was not allowed to wear the shirt.
Macy Gray and her band, including Billy Wes, performed on the Today’ show on the same day Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia
Billy Wes can be seen wearing a plain shirt on stage, but was photographed wearing a shirt that read “Free Brittney Griner” just before the performance.
Gray bassist Alex Kyhn posted a photo on Instagram with the shirt in question
Wes hoped to wear the shirt to support Griner’s release from a Russian prison. The WNBA star has been detained in Russia on drug-related charges for six months.
Wes and Gray did not reveal the reason Wes was forced to hide the protest message, although Gray said “I don’t think it’s political”.
“He’s a human being in a really awful situation and there are people who have the power to do something about it, and that’s what they should do,” the singer added.
The performance took place just before Griner pleaded guilty in a Russian court to the drug charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Griner hopes to be included in a prisoner exchange, and some believe a guilty plea is necessary for an exchange to occur.
“I would like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said, speaking an English that was later translated into Russian for the court.
Griner pleaded guilty this week to drug possession and trafficking at her trial in Moscow, but said she had no intention of committing a crime. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist is pictured being escorted into a courtroom in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday July 7, 2022
The basketball player was arrested in February after she was caught carrying two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil through a Moscow airport. She has been detained since then and her next hearing will be on July 14.
The White House said Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to assure her he was doing everything he could to secure the athlete’s release as soon as possible. They spoke after Biden read a letter from Griner in which she said she feared she would never return home.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, however, warned that the “hype” surrounding the case is not helping and urged the United States to cease all correspondence with the basketball player who was recently tried in Russia.
Vladimir Putin’s administration has said that would only make a prisoner swap less likely.
“It not only distracts attention from the case, but creates interference in the truest sense of the word,” Ryabkov said. ‘Silence is needed here.’
The State Department named Griner as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, was reassured by President Biden that “he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible,” the White House said in a statement.
Macy Gray herself has been in the news lately, after appearing on Piers Morgan’s show earlier this week and making comments that some perceived as transphobic.
“Just because you switch roles doesn’t make you a woman, sorry,” Gray told Morgan in an interview.
She went on to say, “A woman is going through a very unique experience and operation and getting together doesn’t change that. Being a little girl is quite an epic book, you know? You can’t have this just because you want to be a woman.
When Piers pointed out that Harry Potter author JK Rowling had been criticized for her views on trans women, Gray said, “But it’s the truth.”
Adding: “I don’t think you should be called a transphobe just because you disagree…there’s a lot of judgment and stone throwing at people for just saying what it is, do you know what i mean?”
Gray apparently backtracked when speaking to Hoda Kotb on Thursday’s Today Show, admitting she feels “bad” about the comments and “hurt some people.”
Gray has come under fire for her comments about transgender people she made on a show with Piers Morgan. Singer said ‘changing your roles doesn’t make you a woman’ but has since backtracked on her statements
Gray told the Today show that “it was a huge learning experience for me” and that she “learned a lot” after Morgan’s interview.
“I never wanted to hurt anyone. I think it takes a lot of courage to be yourself. Anyone in the LGBTQ community is a hero,” she told Kotb.
“I learned a lot from it. So I think that was one of the reasons it happened. It was a huge learning experience for me,” Gray continued. “You can call yourself whoever you think you are and no one can dictate it to you or take it away from you.