Brittney Griner’s sentence in Russia a necessary next step to get her home

Em Adler joins the Locked On Sports Today podcast to explain the meaning of Griner’s verdict and what to expect on the timeline to bring her home.

MOSCOW, Russia — WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court on Thursday after being found guilty of drug charges.

Griner, considered one of the greatest players in WNBA history, has been jailed since February 17 after police said she found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage upon landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. She returned to Russia, where she has been competing since 2014.

US President Joe Biden has called the verdict and sentence “unacceptable” amid rising US-Russia tensions over Ukraine.

“I urge Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden said, adding he will continue to work to free Griner and Paul Whelan, an American detained in Russia, to bring home a conviction for espionage.

Em Adler from The Next women’s basketball editors joined the Locked On Sports Today podcast to explain the meaning of the phrase and what to expect on the timeline to bring it home.

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“That was to be expected all along,” said Adler. “ESPN’s TJ Quinn, who was the voice to follow this, has been saying all along that you have to be a prisoner for a prisoner swap to happen.”

While reports indicate that the US offered to send Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Whelan, we don’t know exactly when something like this would happen.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult,” says Adler. “You can really disregard the 9-year sentence, it’s a formality. But the problem is, if the Biden administration is as active as it’s been trying to say in recent weeks, she could be home in a couple of months. But it might be a few more years to be honest. The other American in Russia, former Marine Paul Whelan, was included in the proposed prisoner swap. The Biden administration was reportedly poised for a prisoner swap for him as early as February 2021, which would have happened a few months from then, and here we are a year and a half later.

Griner and many WNBA players in America choose to play overseas during the offseason because of the money they can make. There have long been caps on the amounts they can earn in the WNBA. For those wondering why she was in Russia in the first place, this isn’t at all unusual for WNBA players.

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“Most players play more abroad than in the United States, they play abroad for higher wages than in the United States,” Adler said. “Part of the thing about Griner is that she just loves meeting other people and other cultures. She was best friends with all of her teammates on every team she played on. There were Russian teammates of hers who went to court to testify for her and just spilled their hearts out to her.”

While we’ve heard a lot from the WNBA and their teammates, as well as President Biden and others. It’s notable that while she was at Baylor, her college coach Kim Mulkey, now at LSU, was noticeably silent about Griner.

“If you want to make it a little worse, we’ve now heard from the Baylor head coach, who wasn’t there when Griner was there,” Adler said. “We also haven’t heard from Baylor or Mulkey, but we have heard from (Baylor women’s basketball head coach Nicki Collen).”

Adler also said of Griner’s incarceration and subsequent verdict that there had been a lot of talk about WNBA players now being afraid to play overseas.

“Talking to players it seems a lot stronger where they are now playing abroad than it used to be. Certainly everyone who has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, which I should mention, is as dominant as a basketball dynasty as we have seen anywhere in the world in their respective league. This is a team that brings in MVP after MVP to play together at the same time.”

“Some play in Italy, others in Turkey, which really presents its own problems when you look at the political situation there. A number of players have played in Hungary in recent years when autocrat Viktor Orban was in power. ” There could very well be serious problems there as well. Fortunately, the players aren’t really thinking about Russia at the moment, but it’s entirely possible that we’ll see problems that aren’t quite as serious, but it could happen.” Brittney Griner’s sentence in Russia a necessary next step to get her home

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