August 15, 2022


Sports world, fans react to Brittney Griner’s 9-year prison sentence in Russia

5 min read
Fellow athletes and fans are responding to Thursday’s decision by a Russian court to sentence...

Fellow athletes and fans are responding to Thursday’s decision by a Russian court to sentence WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison, many renewing their pleas for President Joe Biden to do everything he can to bring the Houston native home. At the end of her month-long trial Thursday, the Olympic Gold medalist was found guilty of drug possession and smuggling for allegedly carrying cannabis oil in her luggage while at an airport in Moscow earlier this year. 

Griner appeared to react to the sentencing with very little emotion, listening to the verdict with a blank stare on her face. However, shortly after the decision came down, fellow athletes and fans took to Twitter to speak out in support of the Phoenix Mercury player. 

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a joint statement Thursday, calling the verdict “unjustified and unfortunate,” although they said it was not unexpected. “Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained,” the statement said. “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.” 

Griner’s Phoenix Mercury team issued a statement saying they remain “grateful and confident” in those working to bring her home. “We remain faithful the Administration will do what it takes to end her wrongful detention,” the statement said. “We will not allow her to be forgotten.”

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Several NBA players also expressed their disappointment with the verdict. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving called on Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to provide more information about Griner’s status, tweeting: “What is truly happening with our Queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an Update.”

Former NBA champion Kendrick Perkins tweeted: “Jesus Christ! This ain’t right man… bring BG home.” NBA player Isaiah Thomas tweeted: “No way they did that to BG!!!! No way!!!! God be with her please.”

Singer Justin Bieber also offered his support for Griner, writing on Instagram that it “hurts” to hear the news. “If anyone knows of any way I can help please let me know,” he wrote. 

Justin Bieber reacts to Brittney Griner's sentencing on Instagram. 

Justin Bieber reacts to Brittney Griner’s sentencing on Instagram. 


Fellow Phoenix Mercury player Brianna Turner called out hateful messages about Griner in a series of tweets Thursday following the sentencing. “I think it’s easy to be an outsider and wish the worst,” Turner wrote. “It’s easy to not know all the facts. It’s easy to spread hate on social media. I know many Americans lack compassion due to all the chaos that happens regularly in our country.” 

Turner continued: “BG is my friend and teammate and one of the kindest people I know. Even before being detained in Russia she would receive hate from trolls [because] they didn’t like her looks or what she supported. Yet she continuously held her head high. I would love to individually respond and annihilate every negative viewpoint I receive but that would be a waste of my time.”

Griner’s Phoenix Mercury teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith simply tweeted that the sentence was “bullsh-t.” WNBA star Lexie Brown expressed fear for athletes playing overseas, tweeting: “Anyone that goes back to Russia to play is insane.” She added: “Praying for BG man…this is breaking my heart seeing her right now.”

Among those speaking out against the sentence was also Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Earlier this week Hidalgo and Harris County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to exert the full extent of its power to bring her home quickly and safely. 

“This news is absolutely devastating – such a deliberate and extreme demonstration of injustice,” Hidalgo tweeted following the verdict. “My heart goes out to the family of #BrittneyGriner, and all Americans being used as pawns in this way. Brittney was born & raised in our Harris County community. We must bring her home.”

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who has remained in close contact with the State Department on securing Griner’s release, urged the U.S. government to continue its work to bring Griner and Whelan home.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people in Russian courts are found guilty,” Jackson Lee wrote. “It is now imperative that all stops are out to bring Brittney home. Any sentence issued by the Russian court against Brittney should be ignored.”

Sports fans also took to Twitter to react. “Brittney Griner being sentenced to 9 years in prison for a petty drug possession in another country is unimaginably horrific, tragic and unjust,” tweeted user @Leslie_Stark23. “Also… This country being shocked by draconian prison sentencing for a petty drug possession is rich.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Brittney Griner SHOULD be brought home. And this SHOULD make Americans think about all of the non-violent drug users that have been jailed with similarly harsh sentences HERE.”

Attention now turns to a potential prisoner swap proposed by the Biden administration to bring home Griner and Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine detained in 2018 in Russia on espionage charges, in a trade for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Biden issued a statement following the verdict Thursday, saying his administration will continue to “work tirelessly” and “pursue every possible avenue” to bring Griner and Whelan home.


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