WNBA Star Brittney Griner has been in a Russian prison for 250 days – over 8 months.
Unfortunately, she will be there a lot longer.
On Tuesday a Russian court denied Griner’s appeal and the Houston, Texas native is expected to be moved to a penal colony, where she’ll serve a nine-year prison sentence on drug charges.
Griner took part in the Moscow Regional Court hearing today via videoconference. According to the court ruling, the time Griner will have to serve in prison will be recalculated with her time in pretrial detention taken into account, meaning she will serve about eight years in prison.
The nine-year WNBA veteran, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury and turned 32 last week on Oct. 18, has been detained since February 17th after customs officials said they found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Griner was trying to enter Russia to join her club team in Ekaterinburg. Customs officials found vape cartridges containing hashish oil, and she pleaded guilty in July, telling the court she had packed them inadvertently.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert issued the following statement regarding the appeal denial:
“Today’s decision while unfortunate, was not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. We greatly appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Administration and U.S. Department of State in leading the negotiations. It is time to bring this case to an end and bring BG home.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also released a statement on the continued wrongful detention of Brittney Griner:
“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today. President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the family, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.”
And the WNBPA – the league’s player association, had this to say today:
“The courage and integrity Brittney Griner has displayed throughout her wrongful detainment should motivate every American to join our campaign to bring her home to her family without any further delay. Brittney has repeatedly taken responsibility and made clear that she never intended to break Russian laws. While their legal system is different from ours, there is no doubt that the original sentence she received was extreme, even for the Russian legal system. This appeal is further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained – she is very clearly a hostage. We must unite and support the stated public commitment of the Biden Administration and Congressional leaders to do everything possible to get her home.”
U.S. officials declared her to be wrongfully detained in May and began seeking a prisoner swap with Russia for Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in Russia since December 2018.
Griner, a Houston native who played collegiately at Baylor University in Waco, competes as part of Team USA Women’s Basketball and won gold medals in the 2016 and 2021 Olympics. Like most WNBA players, she plays basketball overseas in the offseason, most recently Russia.
Stay tuned for more on this developing story.