Mon. Mar 20th, 2023

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s friends and colleagues expressed their support and sadness for her after a Russian court found her guilty of attempting to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony.

“I’m just really sad and sick for Brittney and I hope she gets home as soon as possible,” said Breanna Stewart, a four-time WNBA All-Star who has played with Griner on Russia’s UMMC Yekaterinburg team since 2020. “Now that the trial is complete and sentencing, I know she must be in a very emotional state and I want her to know that we are continuing to do everything we can to bring her home.”

Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17, when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow said they found hash oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial began on July 1 and the conviction was widely expected. The US State Department has said that Griner is wrongly imprisoned and has worked to negotiate her release.

Griner’s family has reached out to Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor, who is campaigning for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine jailed in Russia since 2018.

“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was harsh by Russian legal standards and proves what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said on Twitter. “We appreciate and continue to support @POTUS and @SecBlinken’s efforts to quickly strike a deal to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home.”

Shortly after the verdict A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces tweeted “Free BG!” with an orange heart emoji. Dijonai Carrington from the Connecticut Sun tweeted “I pray so much for BG.”

The Phoenix Mercury released a statement calling Griner’s situation a nightmare.

“While we knew it was never the trial that would bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare our sister BG endured,” Mercury said in a statement.

The Players’ Union of the WNBA released a statement on Twitter by its Executive Director, Terri Carmichael Jackson, who called the verdict “unfair” and urged US officials to do whatever it takes to bring Griner home.

“Given their performances on and off the pitch, BG deserve to come home,” the statement said.

She then called on the global sports community to stand by Griner.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a joint statement saying, “The commitment of the WNBA and the NBA to their safe return has not wavered, and we hope to be nearing the end of that process, finally bringing BG home to the United States.”

Some NBA players have also weighed in.

“Smh 9 years… Free BG,” Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo said on Twitter.

Nets star Kyrie Irving tweeted: “What is really happening to our Queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an update.”

Texas Democrat Rep. Colin Allred has been working to secure Griner’s release since March.

“People need to remember that this conviction is part of a sham trial and that Brittney was wrongly imprisoned,” Allred said on Twitter. “It’s just another cynical way for Russia to apply pressure.”

Debbie Jackson, Griner’s high school basketball coach, held back tears after learning of Griner’s verdict. Jackson recruited Griner, then a volleyball player, to play basketball at Nimitz High School in Houston and set her on the path to on-court fame.

“It sickens me that that was the decision,” Jackson said. “I’ve tried to be optimistic, even aware that things aren’t going the way one would hope when dealing with Russia.” She said she hopes Griner “can stay hopeful that our State Department is working on a prison swap.” working for them and other Americans who are in prison over there.”

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