Case of basketball player Griner also a political issue

Moscow (AP) – As a professional basketball player in a Russian prison for more than 100 days – the situation of US Olympic champion Brittney Griner is also close to German national player Satou Sabally.

“We need to do more appeals, we need to bring Brittney Griner home because it’s just an incredible situation. She is two meters tall and is probably sitting in a small cell for something that is very controversial, »said Germany’s best basketball player of the German Press Agency. “I feel close to her because she’s a WNBA player and she’s been to Russia. I was in Turkey at the time.”

In custody since February 17

Griner, the two-time Olympic champion and star player of the WNBA team Phoenix Mercury, was arrested on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on charges of drug possession and has been in custody since then. As the Interfax news agency reported in early March, citing Russian customs, so-called vape cartridges and hashish oil were discovered in the American’s luggage during the check. Griner faces five to ten years in prison.

The latest published status from Russia is a decision from mid-May, when pre-trial detention was extended by a month. When there will be a hearing is just as open as the question of whether it is actually just a matter of a drug violation or whether the Russian leadership is not also pursuing political intentions – and would like to use Griner, for example, as a bargaining chip for an exchange of Russian prisoners in the USA. In any case, the US State Department classifies Griner’s arrest as wrongful, but is very tight-lipped and general when it comes to information about her case.

To make money in Russia

Like numerous other WNBA professionals, Griner played in Europe for months for additional income – just as Sabally was still active in Turkey until a few weeks ago and won the championship there with Istanbul. “She’s a professional player in the WNBA and should make enough money to never have to go to Europe at all. But that’s one thing we have to do, I always say in quotes,” Sabally explained. “We want to develop further and not sit around for large parts of the year and leave good money on the table.” The WNBA season in the USA usually runs roughly from May to September.

In particular, offers from Russian clubs cannot be rejected from a financial point of view, reported the 24-year-old Berliner. “You can’t say no to Russia. Right now this is controversial, even with the war. But if everything were normal, I would go to Russia,” Sabally said despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She earned about $80,000 in her third season with the Dallas Wings. “It would be enough, but for what kind of lifestyle as a professional player? Plus, we only have 10 or 15 years, it’s not something we can do for 40 years,” Sabally explained. “And then the question is, do you just take the 80,000 or do you continue to play basketball and earn something more. The multiple, multiple, multiple at that. Definitely in Russia.”

pressure on the US government

The basketball players in the NBA don’t have to deal with any of this – and Sabally believes that none of them are still in Russian custody after such a long time. “That’s one thing that wouldn’t be the case if she were a man and an NBA player in my opinion.” Like many other WNBA and NBA professionals, the Germany international recently joined calls for more pressure on the US government.

“There is one person who can bring her back, and that is our president,” said Griner’s wife Cherelle in an interview with ESPN. “He has the power.” She now expects Biden to use this to get Brittney Griner released. The last time she heard her wife’s voice was on the day of her arrest, Cherelle Griner said. That was 15 weeks ago.


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