WNBA star center Briteny Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession charges. The verdict leaves many members of the sports community in outrage.
“She was wrongly detained in Russia for something very simple as a drug that’s kinda legalized a lot in the United States but obviously Russia is a different country,” WUSA sports director Darren Haynes.
Griner is an eight-time WNBA All-star, who won a championship in 2014 with the Phoenix Mercury. Before taking her talents to Phoenix, she brought home a national championship to Baylor University.
The 2013 first overall WNBA draft pick was arrested on Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport for having cannabis in her possession. Griner’s legal team advised her to plead guilty to steer clear of a harsh sentence.
On the other end, sources close to Griner say she was already preparing for the worse.
In early June, a prisoner exchange between America and Russia was proposed. Some possible prisoners taking part in the exchange are Russians Viktor Bout and Paul Whelan. The U.S. State Department has not released any updated information on the possible swap.
“Our country’s women or men are being used as political pawns and we are not doing everything in our power,” ESPN anchor Elle Duncan said. “It’s been almost a hundred and seventy days. It’s unbelievable.”
Deadspin senior writer Carron J. Philips also noted Britney’s identity causes certain odds to already be stacked against her.
“She’s black, she’s a woman and she’s gay,” Philips said. “It’s hard being a double minority and she is a triple minority.”
Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists president Ernest Owens mentions he feels being a minority in multiple ways can be a setback when facing the world.
“When you’re living on the margins of two different identities with race and sexual orientation those things provide themselves as double whammy in situations like this,” Owens said.
A known gap between the WNBA and NBA salaries is the main reason Griner travels overseas to play. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic signed a five-year $270 million contract in July while Griner only signed a three-year $664, 544 contract.
“She is a huge name,” Duncan said. “She is a champion in every level. She has so much name recognition and the idea that she can not make enough income to support her family and has to supplement it by going to Russia is ridiculous. Could you imagine if Lebron in the off-season had to go to play in Greece? It would never happen.”
Griner’s high school coach Debbie Jackson says the superstar’s comedic and compassionate spirit keeps her going.
“I would love to give her a big hug,” Jackson said. “I want to tell her I love her and I’m praying for her. I am supporting her. She can get through this. Do not give up hope.”