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Reaction from NBA, WNBA worlds to sentencing of Brittney Griner in Russia


US’ Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, stands inside a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a “lenient” sentence. (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

POOL/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday, a Russian judge sentenced WNBA and Team USA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling.

In what quickly became a very politically loaded case, Griner was “wrongfully detained” according to American diplomats after police at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. This amount measured out to less than a gram. Griner had pled guilty, likely looking to reduce her sentence (in a trial where the outcome was predetermined), but still got very near the maximum the judge could impose. Negotiations on a prisoner exchange involving Griner are ongoing.

The basketball world and beyond reacted with shock and support for Griner. What follows is a sampling of that reaction.

“Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a joint statement. “The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”

“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,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”