Friends and colleagues of WNBA star Brittney Griner expressed support and sadness for her after a Russian court found her guilty of attempting to smuggle narcotics into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony.
“I feel really sad and I feel bad for Brittney and hoping she gets home as soon as possible,” said Breanna Stewart, a four-time WNBA All-Star who had played with Griner on the Russian UMMC Yekaterinburg team since 2020. “Now that the trial is over and the sentence has taken place, I know she must be in a very emotional state and I just want her to know that we are still continuing to do everything possible to bring her home. “
Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17, when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow claimed they found hash oil in vaporizer cartridges in her luggage. Her trial began on July 1 and her sentence had been widely awaited. The US State Department claimed that Griner was wrongfully detained and that she worked to negotiate her release.
Griner’s family has asked for help from Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor who is working to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine detained in Russia since 2018.
“Brittney Griner’s ruling today was harsh by Russian legal standards and demonstrates what we’ve always known, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said on Twitter. “We appreciate and continue to support @POTUS and @SecBlinken’s efforts to quickly conclude a deal to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home.”
What to know about the Brittney Griner case
The Phoenix Mercury released a statement calling Griner’s situation a nightmare.
“Even though we knew it was never going to be the legal process that would bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare our sister, BG, endured,” the statement said. by Mercury.
The WNBA players union posted a statement on Twitter by its executive director, Terri Carmichael Jackson, who called the verdict “unfair” and urged US officials to do everything possible to bring Griner home.
“Given his service record on and off the pitch, BG deserves to go home,” the statement read.
He then called on the global sports community to side with Griner.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a joint statement saying, “The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to his safe return has not wavered, and it is our hope that we are nearing the end of this process. to finally bring BG home to the United States. “
The plight of Brittney Griner in Russia
The American basketball star endured months in a Russian prison on suspicion of smuggling hash oil into the country.
Some NBA players also had a weight.
“Shm 9 years…. Free BG, ”Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat said on Twitter.
Nets star Kyrie Irving tweeted: “What is really happening to our queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an update “.
Rep Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, has been working to secure Griner’s release since March.
“People need to remember that this conviction is all part of a sham trial and that Brittney was wrongfully detained,” Allred said on Twitter. “It’s just another cynical way for Russia to try and get leverage.”
Debbie Jackson, Griner’s high school basketball coach, held back tears after learning of Griner’s verdict. Jackson recruited Griner, then a volleyball player, to play basketball at Nimitz High School in Houston, setting her on the road to stardom on the court.
“It hurts me that that was the decision,” Jackson said. “I was trying to be optimistic, also fully aware of the fact that when you are dealing with Russia, things don’t go as you would like.” She said he hoped Griner “can remain confident that our State Department will work on a prison swap for you and other Americans who are in prison over there.”