Friends and colleagues of WNBA star Brittney Griner have expressed their support and sadness for her after a Russian court found her guilty of trying to smuggle narcotics into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony.
“I just feel really sad and bad for Brittney and I hope she gets home as soon as possible,” said Breanna Stewart, a four-time WNBA All-Star who played with Griner on Russia’s UMMC Yekaterinburg team in 2020 . “Now. that the trial is over and the sentencing has happened, I know she must be in a very emotional state and I just want her to know that we continue to do everything we can to get her home.”
Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17, when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow said they found hashish oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial began on July 1 and the conviction was widely expected. The US State Department said Griner was being wrongfully detained and was working to negotiate her release.
Griner’s family asked for help from Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico who is working to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018.
“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and proves what we’ve known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said on Twitter. . “We appreciate and continue to support the efforts of @POTUS and @SecBlinken to quickly reach an agreement to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home.”
Moments after the verdict, A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces he posted on Twitter “Free snack!” with an orange heart emoji. Dijonai Carrington of the Connecticut Sun he posted on Twitter “I pray so much for BG.”
The Phoenix Mercury released a statement calling Griner’s situation a nightmare.
“While we knew it would never be the legal process that would bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a milestone in the 168-day nightmare endured by our sister, BG,” Mercury’s statement read.
WNBA Players Union posted a statement on Twitter from its executive director, Terri Carmichael Jackson, who called the verdict “unfair” and urged US officials to do everything possible to bring Griner home.
“Given her track record of service on and off the field, BG deserves to come home,” the statement said.
He then asked the global sports community to stand with Griner.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a joint statement saying, “The commitment of the WNBA and the NBA to a safe return has not wavered, and we are hopeful that we are nearing the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States .”
Some NBA players chimed in as well.
“Smh 9 years…. Free BG,” Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat he said on Twitter.
Nets star Kyrie Irving he posted on Twitter: “What is really going on with our queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an update.”
Representative Colin Allred, D-Texas, has been working to secure Griner’s release since March.
“People need to remember that this conviction is part of a sham trial and Brittney was wrongfully detained,” Allred said on Twitter. “It’s just another cynical way for Russia to try to gain leverage.”
Debbie Jackson, Griner’s high school basketball coach, fought 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 a path to stardom on the court.
“I’m sorry that was the decision,” Jackson said. “I tried to be optimistic, even fully aware that when you’re dealing with Russia, things don’t go as you’d hope.” She said she hopes Griner “can remain confident that our State Department will work on a prison exchange for her and other Americans who are in prison there.”