US basketball star Brittney Griner has been jailed for nine years in Russia. The verdict was greeted with horror in the United States. Politicians will continue to seek Griner’s release.
Whether it was coincidence or possibly part of a politically motivated staging: the court in Moscow had its verdict against the US basketball player Brittney Griner announced on Thursday evening (04.08.2022). Just before Griner’s team, Phoenix Mercuryin the WNBA versus Connecticut Sun should compete.
The team followed the announcement of the sentence against their teammate, serving nine years in prison for drug possession, as they warmed up before the game. The players of both teams lined up in the center circle, linked their arms and were silent for 42 seconds, following Griner’s shirt number. After that they shouted: “Bring her home” – “Take her home”.
“None of us actually wanted to play today. All of us cried before the game“explained Griner’s teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith. “But we must keep trying to keep her spirit alive.“
Phoenix trainer Nygaard: No hopes in the Russian judicial system
“We knew this was going to happen, we were prepared for it“said Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard: “We did not place our hopes in the Russian judicial system.”
“We know that the process that was supposed to bring our friend home was never legal“, wrote the club in an official statement. One is “inconsolable“, at the same time the trust in the officials is great, “who work every day to bring her back to her family and to us“.
Griner agent: “Used as a political pawn”
“I love my family“said Griner after being led out of the courtroom in Khimki in handcuffs. “The conviction proves what we’ve known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawnher agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, tweeted.
The professional basketball leagues WNBA and NBA reacted to the verdict with clear criticism. The prison sentence imposed on Griner was “unfair and regrettable,” the two leagues said in a joint statement. The verdict is “predictable” been, but stay the 31-year-old “wrongly” imprisoned, it said. The NBA also holds shares in the WNBA, both leagues announced that they would continue to “undiminished for a safe return“to use the American in the USA. There remains the hope of an early end.
“What is really happening to our queen?”, wrote NBA star Kyrie Irving on Twitter and addressed this question to US President Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris. “Please give us an update!”
US President Biden: Griner’s verdict “unacceptable”
US President Biden had Thursday’s decision in a first reaction “unacceptableThe star player’s legal team announced immediately after the verdict that they would appeal, but the chances of a significant reduction in the prison sentence are likely to be slim.
However, even before the verdict was announced, the US government had begun diplomatic efforts to secure Griner’s release. Shortly after the arrest became known, there were first voices from US politicians that the proceedings against Griner were politically motivated. Moscow has defended itself against US political interference and allegations that Griner is being used politically in response to the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Russia after the attack on Ukraine.
At the beginning of July, US President Biden promised, also to Griner’s wife Cherelle, that the US government would exhaust all possibilities to bring Griner home.
Speculations about prisoner exchanges
Even before the verdict, major US media such as “New York Times“concrete speculation that the only option left would be a prisoner exchange Griner to be freed from Russian custody. in view of Griners Celebrity, she is one of the top stars of WNBA, Names such as arms dealer Viktor Bout and hacker Roman Seleznev, both sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the United States, circulated in exchange for Griner could be sent back to Russia.
Moscow be “ready to talk about the topic“, said the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a press conference during a visit to Cambodia, without becoming more specific. According to information from US government circles, an offer for a possible prisoner exchange has been available for weeks, like the ARD studio Washington reported.
Discussion about cannabis as a painkiller in US sports
The two-time Olympic champion was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, after security forces found her luggage Vape-Had found cartridges with cannabis oil. Griner had pleaded guilty in court to possession of cannabis but defended herself by claiming that she had a medical recommendation to use cannabis preparations to treat pain.
In fact, cannabis is quite common as a pain reliever in US sports. In many leagues, including the WNBA, the intake is still prohibited. However, there have recently been increased efforts about a possible release, initiated by prominent basketball players such as Kevin Durant or the former NFL pro Eugene Monroe. Die NFL had already relaxed the strict requirements in 2020, and since then the consumption of cannabis in small quantities has no longer been punished.
Griner in Russia – the salary problem in the WNBA
One of the most decorated US basketball players is arrested at an airport in Moscow – how could it even happen? The US professional league WNBA, like the NBA for men, is the best basketball league in the world. However, not necessarily in terms of earning potential.
The maximum salary was raised to $230,000 after the latest collective bargaining. Because the season in the WNBA Moreover, since it only lasts four months, mostly from May to August, many top players are then drawn abroad, where they can sometimes earn significantly more – at top Russian clubs like Yekaterinburg even allegedly more than a million dollars.
That’s where it went too Griner, who first joined the Russian top club in 2015. Around 70 players from the WNBA were active outside the US after the end of last season. A dozen of them had signed with clubs in Russia and Ukraine, but after the Russian attacks began they returned to the United States – except for the imprisoned Brittney Griner.
Griners case also has those WNBA and put their salary policy under pressure: The league has already announced that it intends to restrict the foreign commitments of players more in the future. And at the same time signaled a willingness to raise salaries so that foreign commitments become less tempting for the players. And they no longer run the risk of getting caught between political fronts.