Facing nine years as a political prisoner, WNBA star Brittney Griner has been drafted into a very dangerous tug of war.
In what might have been a historic case of the world’s worst timing, WNBA basketball star and olympic athlete Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia shortly before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
Due to the timing, what would probably have been a minor offense- Griner was caught, according to Russian authorities, at the Moscow airport with a very small amount of marijuana in a vape cartridge- became instead an international incident, a political flashpoint in a simmering conflict.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club and the city for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought,” Brittney Griner told the judge prior to her sentencing last week. “I also want to apologize to my parents, my siblings, Phoenix Mercury, the amazing women of the WNBA and my amazing spouse back home.”
“I never meant to hurt anybody,” Griner assured the Russian court. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake and I hope that, in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.”
“I know that everybody keeps talking about political pawns and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom,” Griner implored. “I want to say again that I had no intent of breaking Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”
Her plea for leniency did little good; “Brittney Griner found guilty in Russian court, sentenced to nine years in prison,” as Yahoo Sports announced on August 4, 2022.
“Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” said U.S. President Joe Biden in response to the sentencing verdict. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, and teammates.”
In a statement, President Biden vowed, “to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring her home.”
“This sentence, this trial just reaffirms what we have been saying all along: Brittney has been wrongfully detained and she needs to be immediately released by Russian authorities so she can be home with her wife, her teammates, and her friends…