News | November 1st, 2022
WNBA Star Brittney Griner Awaits Her New Fate
By: Kya Cudjo
Brittney Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was recently sentenced to nine years on felony drug charges at a Russian court in the Moscow area. This sentencing was an anticipated result of a trial that U.S. and international officials have called an illegitimate proceeding or “sham.”
Griner was arrested in February after Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport officials discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. According to the New York Times, Brittney Griner’s lawyers argued that the American basketball star had a doctor’s note recommending the drug she mistakenly carried into Russia. Griner’s nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and her lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive.
Alexander Boykov, WNBA star’s lawyer, said, “No judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law.”
Defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with nearly a third granted parole. Griner’s legal team subsequently appealed the decision, which was recently officially rejected on Oct. 25.
According to ESPN, several officials have mentioned that they believe Russia will not engage seriously in negotiations until after the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 8, not wanting to give the Biden administration a political victory.
Unfortunately, Griner has already served around eight months. Her arrest in February came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. Meanwhile, Griner was returning to play basketball for a Russian team during the WNBA’s offseason. After the results of her recent rejection of the appeal, Griner will likely begin a nine-year sentence in one of Russia’s infamous penal colonies.
“A Russian Penal Colony, many of them scattered across Siberia as gulags were and laid out in barracks, are characterized by brutality, overcrowding and harsh conditions, and they are often governed by a rigid prison culture.”
Inmates are said to live among rats, work up to 17-hour days, and face inhumane treatment. These colonies are commonly compared to Chinese labor camps, where abuse is common, disease is rampant, and forced labor is prominent.
Griner’s friends and family anxiously stand by.
Many sit with their eyes glued to the television awaiting answers regarding Griner’s trial, but nobody is as anxious and ill will as Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle. In her first interview since Brittney’s sentencing, Cherelle Griner spoke with CBS Morning’s Gayle King and voiced her concern about her wife’s ordeal, saying Brittney is a “hostage.”
“To know that our government and the foreign government is sitting down and negotiating for her release? She’s a hostage,” Cherelle said.
Amethyst Tate, a source from People Magazine, stated that since Brittney’s arrest in February, communication between herself and her wife has been limited. “They could not talk until August, six months after the WNBA star’s arrest. They had two phone conversations, and she said hearing Brittney’s voice during the first call was “delightful.” explained Tate.
Cherelle wanted the world to know about Griner’s mental state in a Russian prison. In her interview with Gayle King, she described her wife’s state of mind during their phone call.
“It was the most disturbing phone call I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve known B.G. 11 years,” exclaimed Mrs. Griner. “I don’t know if she has anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has no one.”
According to People Magazine, Cherelle was hoping Brittney could come home via a prisoner swap between U.S. and Russia before the Oct. 25 hearing.
President Biden offered convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who remains imprisoned in Russia. The possibility of an exchange was further complicated when the Russians demanded the inclusion of convicted assassin Vadim Krasikov, who is serving a life term for an assassination in Germany, in the negotiations.
The U.S. now nervously awaits Griner’s fate as we head into election week. WNBA players took to social media to express their support for Griner.
Kia Nurse, one of Griner’s Mercury teammates, tweeted, “We love you, and we miss you. Bring her home. #WeAreBG”
my heart goes out to BG and her loved ones. We love you and we miss you. Bring her home 🖤 #WeAreBG
— Kia Nurse (@KayNurse11) October 25, 2022
Following, a Seattle Storm basketball star, Breanna Stewart, who has posted daily about Griner’s plight, also tweeted, “it is time for her to come home.”
According to the NBA, several players wore black t-shirts with “We Are B.G.” on the front in orange letters for their NBA Finals practice session. The shirts also had a Q.R. code on the back, linking to an online petition seeking 300,000 signatures supporting the notion of bringing Griner home.
Griner, who turned 32 behind bars in Russian custody, has the world in awe as she now awaits her fate and potentially the next nine years in Russia.