Brittney Griner – a great world basketball, Olympic legend and LGBT pioneer – now risks losing the greatest years of her career in a Russian penal colony.
The 31-year-old American was convicted Thursday by a Russian court on drug charges and sentenced to nine years in prison, although US officials said she had been wrongfully detained and worked behind the scenes for her release.
Griner is among only 11 players to have won an Olympic gold medal, a WNBA title, a women’s basketball world cup crown, and a US college championship.
He helped lead the U.S. women’s national team to Olympic gold in 2016 in Rio and last year in Tokyo, awarding Americans seven consecutive Olympic crowns, equaling the U.S. men’s team from 1936 to 1968 for the longest-running title in any team in any Olympic sport.
In February 2013, Griner came out as a lesbian publicly in an interview with Sports
illustrated, becoming a sports pioneer.
“I’m just trying to help out,” Griner told People magazine at the time. “I’m just trying to make it not that difficult for the next generation.”
His sponsorship deal with Nike was his first with an openly gay athlete.
Griner protested the killing of African Americans Breonna Taylor and George Floyd during a wave of nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States in 2020 and suggested not playing the American anthem before matches.
A champion at all levels of basketball, she played for years in Russia in the WNBA off-season for Yekaterinburg, a common path for American stars looking for additional income, with WNBA salaries much lower than those of NBA superstars.
He has won three Russian championships and four EuroLeague titles with the powerful club.
“I hope I don’t have to go international to go play,” Griner said in 2019 when asked what she hoped life would be like in 2024.
“I hope to be able to stay here and play here in the league at home, where my family, my friends are. We hope we can get paid as we deserve. We put our bodies on the line a lot. So I think it’s our number one thing. “
But the future may look very different now, after she was detained at a Moscow airport in February after being found holding cannabis oil vaporizer cartridges in her luggage.
The WNBA star said he had permission from a US doctor to use medicinal cannabis to relieve pain caused by his many injuries.
American women will seek their fourth consecutive Women’s World Cup crown later this year in Australia. Griner was supposed to be a key player on that team, as she was in the 2014 and 2018 lineups.
American women have not lost a match at the Olympics since 1992 and have not abandoned a match at the World Cup, the world championship tournament, since 2006.
– record author –
The 2.06-meter center originated in Houston and brought Baylor University to the title of a US college in 2012.
He set a record with 223 blocks in his 2009-10 freshman season and finished with a record 748 blocks for his college career.
She was the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft since Phoenix Mercury and helped the team win the 2014 WNBA crown.
The eight-time WNBA All-Star center won scoring titles in 2017 and 2019, led the championship in blocked shots in eight of his nine campaigns, and was twice named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“I think sometimes we take for granted how fantastic she is,” said Diana Taurasi, US and Phoenix teammate, of Griner in last year’s WNBA final, when Mercury lost to Chicago. “We know who our daily bread is. BG is just playing on a different level. “
Griner averaged a WNBA record of 4.0 blocked shots per game in the 2015 season.
For his WNBA career, Griner averaged 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.8 assists in one game of 254 games, all for Mercury.
Griner married fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson in 2015, but later pleaded guilty to misconduct charges and went to counseling for domestic violence.
Both Griner and Johnson were suspended seven games from the WNBA and the couple divorced in 2016.
Griner married Cherelle Watson in 2019.