WNBA Star Brittney Griner Faces Nine Years in Russian Prison


A major WNBA star could possibly spend the next nine years in a Russian prison.

According to the New York Times, Brittney Griner, 32, was found with a vape cartilage containing hashish oil in her luggage on her way returning home from Russia in February 2022. Since hashish oil is an illegal substance in Russia, she was charged for an attempt to smuggle drugs and detained at the Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow. Griner pleaded guilty, but claimed that she had unintentionally packed the vape cartilage.

An article from NBC News says that Griner had been travelling to Russia back and forth since 2016 to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian’s women basketball team which is now suspended in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year 2022. It is suggested that Russia’s actions might come from a political motive in reaction to the United States’ response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s nine-year prison sentence is close to the maximum 10-year sentence for her conviction, and her lawyers argued that her conviction as a first-time offense is unfair and politically motivated.

Joe Biden, President of the United States, believes Griner was wrongfully convicted and has proposed a prisoner exchange with Russia, according to The New York Times.

“We are in constant contact with the Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out, and so far we have not been meeting with much positive response. But we’re not stopping,” he said.

Griner’s conviction has become involved with the political tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“American officials contend that Russia, struggling under the weight of international sanctions imposed over the war, is hoping to use the athlete and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan, a former Marine held since December 2018, as bargaining chips,” The New York Times reported.

ESPN reveals that President Biden received a handwritten letter from Griner appealing for freedom and expressing her fear for her future. It reads: “I’m terrified I might be here forever. I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other detainees.”

Hashish oil, also known as cannabis oil, is a concentrated liquid of cannabinoids extracted from cannabis plants. In 39 states cannabis is legal under medical use for qualified individuals, while recreational use of cannabis is legal in 19 states, including Texas, where Griner is from.

Grgur Brcic, post-graduate basketball player from Croatia, believes the situation was politically motivated and unfair.

“I definitely don’t think she deserved it, I think it got escalated because of the Ukraine and Russia war, and I think the U.S. should do anything they can to get her out of it,” he said. “I don’t think she was targeted because although she is a professional basketball player she doesn’t have that amount of fame yet.”

Paris Lenon, post-graduate from Arizona, thinks Griner should take responsibility for herself.

“I don’t believe that it was an accident that she left the cartilage in her luggage,” he said. “She should have known the consequences and if even she was careless she was still technically bringing drugs to the airport.”