- BBC News World
Brittney Griner is 2.06 meters tall and weighs 93 kilos. She wears size 17 men’s shoes and her hands are slightly wider than American basketball star LeBron James’s.
Had Griner not entered the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WNBA) at age 22, she would have followed in her father’s footsteps and become police officer.
He is his “model to follow”has said in the past.
Now she has just been sentenced in a Russian court to 9 years in prison on “drug” charges.
Griner, 31, was arrested at an airport in the Russian capital last February after customs agents found vape cartridges in her luggage containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia and which the athlete claims she used with medicinal purposes.
She has been in jail ever since, and to reduce her sentence, the Olympic medalist pleaded guilty to drug-related charges, though she said she did not intend to break any laws.
The US claims she is “unjustly detained” and has asked the Kremlin to release her in a prisoner exchange, although it is unknown if it has received a response on the proposal.
Griner, known to Phoenix Mercury fans as BG and considered the best offensive player in professional women’s basketball in the United States, she conquered her first battle as soon as she joined the WNBA.
She was the first player in the league to dare to say publicly that she was homosexualwithout caring about the consequences that his revelation could entail.
“Before Griner, there was a shadow over the league, where (the practice) was urged to ‘don’t say gay‘” sports columnist Tamryn Spruill explained. “She just said, ‘To hell with that, this is who I am.'”
That daring led her to become the first openly gay athlete (male or female) to be sponsored by the sports firm Nikeafter being the first selected in the draft round of the WNBA.
At 31, Griner has won two Olympic gold medals, the Most Valuable Player title in the US Women’s Basketball League, and WNBA and EuroLeague championships.
A native of Houston, Texas, she earned a basketball scholarship to attend Baylor University, where she led the team to a national championship.
However, since the end of July, Griner has been carrying a nine-year prison sentence for traveling with some cannabis oil vapers to Russiawhere he used to play in the Euroleague with the UMMC Ekaterinburg team, during the offseason in the United States.
Griner did the same as other WNBA teammates: playing outside to increase her income. In Russia he was paid five times more than in the United States.
“Wage inequality in the United States has led to the unjust detention of Brittney Griner in Russia, where she is being used as a political pawn,” explains the portal. WeAreBGa campaign organized by other athletes who belong to the Women’s National Basketball Association.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Euroleague suspended all Russian teams, prompting the United States and the WNBA to recall their players.
The athlete was preparing to board a plane back to the United States, when a dog of the Federal Customs Service of Russia had authorities search his carry-on luggage, where they found e-cigarette cartridges laced with cannabis oil.
Months later, the sports star pleaded guilty to drug-related charges, although he said he did not intend to break any laws.
During the months of his detention, Cherelle Watsonwife of the 28-year-old athlete and lawyer, has denounced that the Russian authorities have denied her consular access and communication with her friends and family.
She has just been sentenced in a Russian court to nine years in prison on charges of “drugs” and the payment of a fine of one million rubles (US$16,300).
In addition, the Russian court reported that he must serve the sentence in a penal colony.
US President Joe Biden said Griner’s conviction was “unacceptableand demanded his immediate release.
“Today, United States citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is yet another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongly holding Brittney,” it said in a statement.
Days before the sentencing, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reported that the Biden administration had made a ‘Significant’ prisoner exchange offer to Russia to secure the return of Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified that I will be here forever,” the player wrote in a letter sent to Biden from prison in July.
The American press had indicated that the Moscow government was interested in exchanging the basketball star for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
However, the conviction changed the landscape.
For now, Griner’s attorneys have noted that will appeal the decisionafter criticizing that the Russian court “completely ignored all the defense evidence and, more importantly, the guilty plea” made by the athlete, hoping to receive a lesser sentence.
Upon learning of the sentence, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, wrote on Twitter: “This is a time for compassion and the shared understanding that getting a deal to bring Americans home will be difficult, but it’s urgent and it’s the right thing to do.”
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