Should We Fight for Brittney Griner's Release?

Carolyn Light

The basketball player was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony
Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

By now, we've all heard about Brittney Griner--the American basketball player who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for bringing THC oil into Russia.

Griner was detained on February 17th and held in prison amid growing tensions between Russia and the United States. She was sentenced on August 4th by Judge Anna Sotnikova, who found that Giner intentionally broke Russian law.

Under Russian law, Griner has 10 days to appeal her sentence, which her defense team is doing.

Griner pled guilty, maintaining that she made a mistake. She is quoted as saying:

"That's why I pled guilty to my charges. I understand everything that's being said against me, the charges that are against me, and that is why I pled guilty. But, I had no intent to break any Russian laws."

The reactions to the sentencing were swift.

President Biden released a statement saying:

"Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney," Biden said. "It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates."

Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has stated that "securing the release" of Griner is a top priority. It is believed that the United States is trying to work on a prisoner swap with Russia.

Civilian reactions to the sentencing are mixed. Previous to her Russian arrest, Griner has refused to stand during the national anthem at her games, which did not win her any friends among the country's conservatives. Errol Webber, a film producer, took to Twitter, tweeting:

Brittney Griner actively refused to be present during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem before games, and even demanded the Anthem and flag ceremony be avoided in all games. I wonder what it feels like now with her begging the Red, White and Blue to come to her rescue?

A plethora of other responses opposed to Griner's release include:

"Don't commit crimes, she isn't innocent or a good role model," and "Now she will get a taste of what some real 'systemic inequity' looks like."

Still, there are many who want to see Griner brought home.

Responding to Webber's tweet, one Twitter user wrote:

"Dissent isn't disrespect and I'm sick of people saying that. It's literally part of the first amendment of our constitution."

Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who was held in a Russian prison from 2019 until this past April stated that the government needs to work harder to secure Griner's release. He said:

"Brittney, especially in Russia, is probably in a lot of ways in a worse position than I was, because Brittney is African American. There's a large portion of the population in Russia which is racist."

Others believe that Griner is simply being used as a political pawn, as Russia is engaged in a war against Ukraine, and the United States is standing with Ukraine.

What do you think?

Does Brittney Griner deserve to spend nine years in a Russian prison? Should the United States work harder to bring her home?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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