WNBA Star Brittney Griner’s Trial on Cannabis Possession Charges Begins in Russia

WNBA Star Brittney Griner’s Trial on Cannabis Possession Charges Begins in Russia

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian
court on Friday for the start of her trial on cannabis
possession charges after being arrested and detained since Feb. 17.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Griner’s status was not affected by tensions between
Russia and the United States following the Russian military’s
invasion of Ukraine, which began one week after the WNBA
superstar was detained.

“The facts are that the famous
athlete was detained in possession of prohibited medication
containing narcotic substances. In view of what
I’ve said, it can’t be politically motivated,” Peskov said Friday, per Jim Heintz of the Associated Press.

Griner, a 31-year-old Texas native, was
traveling to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian
Premier League during the WNBA offseason when she was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Texas congressional representative
Colin Allred called the trial “illegitimate” in an interview with
CNN:

Brianna Keilar @brikeilarcnn

.@RepColinAllred says “we are going to do everything we possibly can to get [Brittney Griner] home as soon as possible”

He adds that “this trial is illegitimate” — Griner’s trial is underway in Russia now. pic.twitter.com/99qw7g9I6y

Griner, who’s played for the WNBA’s
Phoenix Mercury since 2013, faces a maximum prison sentence of 10
years if convicted. Heintz noted less than one percent of criminal
cases in Russia end with an acquittal.

In May, the U.S. State Department
changed Griner’s status to “wrongfully detained,” an escalation
of its efforts to secure her release amid the legal proceedings.

Cherelle Griner, the basketball
standout’s wife, told CNN in an interview published Friday she feels the government isn’t doing enough
to solve the situation:

New Day @NewDay

In an exclusive interview with @abbydphillip, Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle says the US is not doing enough to bring Brittney home.
“We have to understand this is not a normal trial, this is not a normal situation… otherwise she’d already be home,” says Rep. Colin Allred. pic.twitter.com/Wdv83KcnUN

Several WNBA players, including Breanna
Stewart, have made daily pleas for a resolution:

Breanna Stewart @breannastewart

It has been 133 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse @potus @vp , we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG

The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, one of the most well-known athletes in the world, also joined the efforts in June:

LeBron James @KingJames

We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! 🙏🏾 Our voice as athletes is stronger together. @uninterrupted 👑 #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/2GWV3Ff81p

On Monday, Griner’s detention was
extended through at least Dec. 20 by the Russian government pending
the outcome of the trial.

She’s one of the most decorated players
of the generation with eight All-Star selections, two scoring titles
and a WNBA championship with the Mercury in 2014. She also won an NCAA title
with Baylor in 2012 and two Olympic gold medals with Team USA in 2016
and 2020.

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