WASHINGTON — WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling Thursday.
The 31-year-old Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and a eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, listened with a blank expression as an interpreter translated the verdict by Judge Anna Sotnikova, but her lawyers said later she was “very upset.” Griner also was fined 1 million rubles (about $16,700).
Here are reactions from around the basketball and political realms:
President Joe Biden:
“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. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible." — President Joe Biden said.
WBNA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:
“Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. 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.” — WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a joint statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
“The wrongful detainment and unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner are brazen and unacceptable violations of the rule of law by Putin. Russia must release her immediately.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Lindsay Kagawa Colas:
“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn. We appreciate and continue to support the efforts of (at)POTUS and (at)SecBlinken to get a deal done swiftly to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home. Bringing Brittney and Paul home is the sole objective, and as such, we should use all available tools. We must remain focused and unified. This is a time for compassion and a shared understanding that getting a deal done to bring Americans home will be hard, but it is urgent and it is the right thing to do." — Brittney Griner's longtime agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, tweeted.
Phoenix Mercury teammate Brianna Turner:
“Thinking of BG and how much light she relentlessly brought to everyone around her. Even after sentencing is complete I hope (at)POTUS & (at)WhiteHouse will continue to do everything in their power to bring Brittney Griner & all other Americans detained abroad home.” — Phoenix Mercury teammate Brianna Turner tweeted.
Phoenix Mercury team:
“While we knew it was never the legal process that was going to bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG. We remain heartbroken for her, as we have every day for nearly six months. We remain grateful to and confident in the public servants working every day to return her to her family and us. We remain faithful the Administration will do what it takes to end her wrongful detention. We are inspired every day by BG’s strength and we are steadfastly committed to keeping her top-of-mind publicly until she is safely back on American soil. We will not allow her to be forgotten. We are BG.” — the Phoenix Mercury said in a statement.
WNBA Players Association:
“Today’s verdict and sentence, while inevitable, is disappointing. The unjust decision today is what it is, unjust. It is a terrible blow . Whatever conversations Secretary Blinken and his Russian counterpart need to have, we trust that they are having them will all deliberate speed. Because it’s time. It’s just time." — WNBA Players Association said in a statement.
Old teammate Odyssey Sims:
“It was very hard to watch, watched a little bit. Couldn’t stand to see her behind the bars. It was a little much for me. I don’t even know what to say about the sentence. Unheard of. Unbelievable. I feel like it’s just unreal. I hope that President Biden and everyone in the white house can do whatever they need to get her out.” - Odyssey Sims, who played with Griner at Baylor and now is with the Connecticut Sun said.
Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard:
“It was extremely heavy. We’ve been carrying this with us all year. To see her in that situation and hear her words was really, really tough. A lot of our players are not in a great space right now.” Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said