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Disapproval of Brittney Griner's Sentencing Continues

By: Sarah Liu

W.N.B.A player Brittney Griner of the team ‘Phoenix Mercury’ has been detained in Russia since February for carrying a cannabis derivative through an airport near Moscow. She was playing for a professional team there, which is common among W.N.B.A players during the offseason.

Though Griner said that the drugs were packed by mistake, she faces 9 years in Russian prison and was fined $16,000 USD. This sentencing for such a small crime has led to outrage from not only W.N.B.A players and coaches, but athletes and fans around the country.

In the meantime, for Griner's Mercury teammates and coaches, awaiting the news kept them glued to the television screen. Instead of a pre-game shootaround before their matchup against the ‘Connecticut Sun,’ they were sitting in the locker room watching Griner plead for the mistake not to “end her life.”

Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith says, “how are we even supposed to approach the game and approach the court with a clear mind when the whole group is crying before the game?” Coach Vannessa Nygaard said the team went through somewhat of a warm-up, but nothing felt right.

Later that night, the lights dimmed and everyone linked arms for 42 seconds for Griner’s jersey number and fans chanted “bring her home.” Staff members and even the ‘Connecticut Sun’ dancers wore “We are BG” T-shirts with her jersey filling the stands. Players of both teams wore the same message on their shirts during warm-up, and Sun point guard, Jasmine Thomas, wore a sweatshirt with a picture of Griner.

Nine years for illegal drugs is uncommon in the U.S. and the reactions show. Though Griner took the direct hit to the sentence, fans, coaches, and athletes have shown support to demonstrate their affection. For now, the next best option for the United States and Griner would be a prisoner swap.

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