U.S. outrage grows over Britney Griner’s sentencing

Friends and colleagues of WNBA star Britney Greener have expressed their support and regret after a Russian court found her guilty of trying to smuggle drugs into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in a maximum security penal colony.

“Just really sad and sickening for Britney and hope she gets home as soon as possible,” said Breanna Stewart, a four-time WNBA All-Star who has played with Griner on Russia’s UMMC Yekaterinburg since 2020. “Now that the trial is over and the verdict is out, 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 we can to bring her home.”

Griner has been in Russian custody since February. March 17, when Russian customs officers at an airport near Moscow claimed to have found hash oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial began on July 1, with many awaiting conviction. The US State Department said Griner was wrongfully detained and that it was negotiating for her release.

The Griner family has turned to Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, who is seeking the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been in Russian custody since 2018, for help.

“Today’s sentencing of Britney Griner was harsh by Russian legal standards and proves what we have known all along that Britney is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Kolas tweeted. “We appreciate and continue to support @POTUS and @SecBlinken’s efforts to close a deal as soon as possible to get Britney, Paul and all Americans back home.”

Moments after sentencing Aja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces tweeted “Free BG!” with orange heart smiley. Dijoni Carrington of the Connecticut Sun tweeted “I pray so hard for BG.”

The Phoenix Mercury released a statement calling Griner’s situation a nightmare.

“While we knew the legal process would never bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare our sister Bee Gee has endured,” Mercury said in a statement.

WNBA Players Union posted a statement on twitter from its chief executive, Terry Carmichael Jackson, who called the verdict “unfair” and urged U.S. officials to do everything possible to bring Griner home.

“Given her track record on and off the court, BG deserves to go home,” the statement said.

He then called on the global sports community to support Griner.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a joint statement saying, “The commitment of the WNBA and the NBA to her safe return is unwavering and we hope we are close to completing this process to finally bring BJ home. United States.”

Some NBA players also spoke out.

“Mmm 9 years…. Free BG.” — Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat. said on Twitter.

Nets star Kyrie Irving tweeted: “What’s really going on with our queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an update.”

Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, has been working to secure Griner’s release since March.

“People should remember that this conviction is part of a sham trial and Britney was wrongfully detained,” Allred tweeted. “This is just another cynical way for Russia to try to gain leverage.”

Debbie Jackson, Griner’s high school basketball coach, held back tears after learning of Griner’s sentencing. Jackson hired Griner, then a volleyball player, to play basketball at Nimitz High School in Houston, which paved the way for her to stardom on the court.

“It makes me sick that it was a decision,” Jackson said. “I tried to be optimistic, even fully aware that when you deal with Russia, things don’t go the way you hoped.” She said she hopes Griner “can still hope our State Department will work on a prison swap for her and the other Americans who are in prison there.”