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A Russian court on Thursday found Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner guilty on a drug smuggling charge, and sentenced her to nine years in prison. Griner has been detained since Feb. 17, when she was detained at a Russian airport when authorities found a vape cartridge containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner was also fined $1 million rubles, which is approximately $16,300.
Griner's wife, teammates and fellow WNBA players, as well as athletes from all over sports, have been calling for her release ever since. The U.S. government recently proposed a prisoner swap that would have released convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout from jail in the U.S. in exchange for Griner and fellow jailed American Paul Whelan, who is currently serving a 16-year sentence for espionage.
After Griner's nine-year sentence was handed down, President Joe Biden released a statement calling her continued detention "unacceptable."
President Biden slams Griner’s 9-year prison sentence as “one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately” pic.twitter.com/LkLnMQXor3
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 4, 2022
The WNBA and NBA released a joint statement about Griner's sentence.
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 4, 2022
As did the WNBA Players Association and the Mercury.
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) August 4, 2022
Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, wrote in a three-part tweet:
"Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn. We appreciate and continue to support the efforts of [President Joe Biden] and [Secretary Antony Blinken] to get a deal done swiftly to to bring Brittney, Paul [Whelan] and all Americans home. Bringing Brittney and Paul home is the sole objective, and as such, we should use all available tools. We must remain focused and unified.
"This is a time for compassion and a shared understanding that getting a deal done to bring Americans home will be hard, but it is urgent and it is the right thing to do."
There was also a showing of both outrage and love from her many supporters, who are hoping she'll continue to be strong until the U.S. negotiates her release.
I’m sick. I pray God places a hedge of protection over BG and her family.
— Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) August 4, 2022
#FreeBrittneyGriner we will not stop advocating for you release. Hold on to God unchanging hand. We love you, BG! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) August 4, 2022
Free BG! 🧡
— A'ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) August 4, 2022
🙏🏿 BG 🙏🏿
— Essence T. Carson (@EssenceCarson) August 4, 2022
Woke up praying for BG 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
— Jillian Alleyne (@SuperrJaay) August 4, 2022
My heart really breaks for Brittney right now.
— Monique Currie (@Mocurrie25) August 4, 2022
Praying for BG man…this is breaking my heart seeing her right now 😔😔😔
— Lexie Brown (@Lexiebrown) August 4, 2022
Heartbroken for BG 💔
— michaela onyenwere 🤍 (@monyenwere_) August 4, 2022
please just get her home 💔
— Krystal Megan (@_krystalmegan) August 4, 2022
— Kahleah Copper (@kahleahcopper) August 4, 2022
Omg 💔💔 This can’t be real! We love you BG!
— stefanie dolson (@bigmamastef) August 4, 2022
praying so hard for BG man 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 no words fr. 💔💔💔
— dιjonaι carrιngтon♛ (@DijonaiVictoria) August 4, 2022
— Chelsea Gray (@cgray209) August 4, 2022
We love you BG. ❤️🙏🏾
— Jasmine Thomas (@jaszthomas) August 4, 2022
9 years?! I’m really at a lost for words! We love you BG! 💔
— LIQUID | Powerzsurge (@aerial_powers23) August 4, 2022
9.5 years?! 9.5 years 💔 BG, we love you. Dk what else to say. We love you. FREE BRITTNEY GRINER.
— Arielle (Ari) Chambers (@ariivory) August 4, 2022
— Jewell B Loyd (@jewellloyd) August 4, 2022
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) August 4, 2022
— Swin Cash (@SwinCash) August 4, 2022
Ari hits it. BG does so much for the W community as well as the Phoenix community. End of the day, shes about to be sentenced for a weed pen. It’s further proof that the people in suits care more about a flex and political power over proper prosecution https://t.co/kr4KqTQj5G
— Jeremy Long (@JLong591) August 4, 2022
— Epiphanny Prince (@Piphdagreat10) August 4, 2022
Can’t just play with people’s lives like that. Sickening. Lord, cover Brittney & her family. FREE BG ‼️
— Arike Ogunbowale (@Arike_O) August 4, 2022
This BG sentence is some bullshit.
— Isabelle Harrison (@OMG_itsizzyb) August 4, 2022
My heart goes out to BG’s family and her wife! ❤️ Today hit a little different man like that’s our sister! I can’t even imagine how her family feels! I pray God is protecting her mental but more importantly keep fighting BG.
…gotta bring you home!
— Erica Wheeler (@EWeezy_For3eezy) August 4, 2022
Several reporters tweeted important information about the true context of Griner's sentence, noting that after her appeals are exhausted, the U.S. government can then work toward getting her home.
As various cable stations cover the 9 year sentence for WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia, I cant help think more context is necessary. This isnt a real court with a real sentence, this is just the Russian government deciding what provides them with the most leverage
— Dan Abrams (@danabrams) August 4, 2022
An important reminder, because the sentencing details today are heartbreaking: this is a sham trial, but part of the process to get Brittney Griner home. All of these charges have been ballooned to the most absurd of degrees just to raise BG’s profile as a political prisoner. https://t.co/QqAAV76jwC
— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) August 4, 2022