Remember in February when it was released that the then 31-year-old, two-time Olympic gold medal winner and eight-time WNBA All-Star, Brittney Griner, was arrested in Russia for allegedly possessing cannabis oil in her luggage after arriving in Moscow from New York City?
Well now, it has been more than eight months since the Phoenix Mercury star attempted to enter Russia and instead wound up facing drug charges that will imprison her for nine years.
Here’s a look back at what has happened.
In May, the U.S. government considered Griner to be wrongfully detained by the Russian government. This meant that the U.S. government had to negotiate her return rather than let her legal case play out.
The Biden Administration offered a deal to Russia in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, an American prisoner who was accused of spying and is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence. In exchange for Griner and Whelan, Russia would receive Viktor Bout, a Russian prisoner in the United States who was convicted for arms trafficking and is currently serving 25 years. Nothing has happened yet with this.
In July, Griner’s trial started and she pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling drugs into Russia. She did bring cannabis products into the country, but said she was packing quickly and did not mean to break the law, adding she did so inadvertently. Griner had been prescribed cannabis by a doctor to treat pain.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of smuggling drugs into the country. Griner’s lawyers said the verdict, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years, was unreasonable, and they filed an appeal.
Just recently, on Oct. 25, Griner had her appeal hearing and it was rejected by the Russian court. U.S. officials still believe Russia will eventually send the WNBA star home in a prisoner swap, but Russia has not responded to any offers yet.
The only thing the appeal ruling determined was that they would include the time in pretrial detention, meaning Griner will serve approximately eight years in prison. Griner was in pre-trial detention for more than three months prior to the trial.
However, Griner will eventually be transferred to one of Russia’s penal colonies in the next few months. This is concerning, as Griner will enter a system that isolates her and involves grueling labor and torture. As a gay Black woman, it also adds unknown variables to how Griner will be treated because of the Vladimir Putin regime. Most likely, she will face more brutal treatment than her counterparts.
The WNBA has featured Griner’s initials and jersey number, 42, on the sideline of all WNBA courts during its season. The league also granted the Mercury roster and salary cap relief so they can carry a replacement player. Griner will continue to be paid her full salary of $227,900. The WNBA has also been trying to make staying home in the offseason a better option for players.
Griner’s wife, professional basketball player Glory Johnson, held a “Bring BG Home” rally. National Women’s Soccer League players are wearing “We are BG” shirts in support, and WNBA players will avoid going to Russia during the offseason to play overseas. Other famous athletes like LeBron James and Stephen Curry are also speaking out.
At this point in time, it is just a waiting game. But America has not forgotten about Griner, and people are doing everything in their power to make sure others do not as well. It can be seen that the United States is prioritizing the return of Griner, as are her supporters, but her fate still sits in the hands of Russia.
Photo courtesy of BDZ Sports, Wikipedia.