Russia is speaking out against the United States in the Brittney Griner case, just one day after the Phoenix Mercury star was front and center at the ESPYs.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the United States classifying Griner as “wrongfully detained” shows blatant disrespect for Russian law. Even though marijuana is legal in various states, Zakharova said, it doesn’t matter one bit in Russia.
"If a U.S. citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian, local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington," Zakharova said, via The Associated Press.
Griner was first detained in February after officials said they found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. She has been in Russian custody ever since, and is facing up to 10 years in prison. Her trial will resume next week.
The United States government has declared Griner a “wrongfully detained” citizen, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is reportedly working to secure her release. There are reports that Russia is willing to exchange Griner for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Stephen Curry, others call for Brittney Griner’s release at ESPYs
Just hours before Zakharova spoke out, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry joined plenty of others in the sports world in calling for Griner’s release at the ESPYs.
Curry hosted ESPN’s annual awards show on Wednesday night from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.
A moment for Brittney Griner at the ESPYs, as Nneka Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Steph Curry continue the call for her freedom from wrongful detainment. pic.twitter.com/GW743WRbuq
— THE SHIFT (@theshift_sports) July 21, 2022
"But as we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay energized on her behalf," Curry said. "Brittney isn’t just a member of the Phoenix Mercury. She isn’t just a member of her team in Russia. She isn’t just an olympian. She's one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and all over the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or global conflict."
Skylar Diggins-Smith was one of multiple WNBA players who spoke out during the show.
"It's been 153 nights now that BG has been wrongfully detained thousands of miles away from home, away from her family, away from her friends, away from her team," Diggins-Smith said. "All throughout that time, we've kept her in our thoughts and in our hearts even though we know that ain't nearly enough to bring her home, y'all."
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, who won the ESPY for Best Play, again spoke out, too.
"We love her. ... We miss her. ... We're doing every single thing we can to get her out."
—Megan Rapinoe took a moment to acknowledge Brittney Griner at the ESPYS pic.twitter.com/5JDFj74bLS
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2022
"I think honestly what we've witnessed tonight is the importance of sport and how much we can bring and how much we can get done in the world just with our collective power," Rapinoe said. "I think for me, the most striking thing is that BG is not here … Every time we say her name, every time it’s on social media, every time we say it in interviews, it puts pressure on everyone. It puts pressure on the administration, it puts pressure on Russia. It puts pressure on Putin. It puts pressure on everyone.
“It lets BG know, also above everything, that we love her and that we miss her and that we’re thinking about her all the time. We’re doing every single thing we can to get her out, because that’s the most important thing.”