Following Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence in Russia, WNBA players, coaches, and fans joined arms and sought to convey their solidarity with the basketball star. Griner, along with several other Americans, became a diplomatic tool amid the tension between the U.S and Russia, in light of the Ukraine war. Before the Connecticut Sun defeated the Phoenix Mercury (77-64), players from both teams convened mid-court, bending their heads for 42 seconds, a tribute to Griner’s jersey number.
“Nobody wanted to even play today. How are you supposed to approach the game and court with a clear mind? The whole group is crying before the game. You try to honor her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not. Right now, we still got to try and keep her spirit alive. Honor her spirit.”Mercury’s Skylar Diggins-Smith Via Associated Press
The U.S. Olympic champion and eight-time WNBA All-Star was convicted by former U.S. Russian Judge Anna for charges of drug possession and smuggling. Griner appeared unmoved during the court sentencing, but her attorneys subsequently stated that she was extremely distraught, and anxious over the sentence. Griner has also slapped with a 1 million ruble fine, roughly 16,700 in U.S. dollars. President Biden slammed the Russian court’s decision as “unacceptable,” according to the Associated Press. Griner told the court that she had no intention of breaking the law. Russian police found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil on Griner who traveled to Moscow to play basketball in Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
Griner’s nine year sentence was close to the maximum sentence of 10 years for drug possession in Russia. Most Russians who possess tiny amounts of drugs face no more than five years in prison, according to the Associated Press. Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, said the sentence was harsh by Russian judicial norms and proves “what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.”