On the 4th of July, as a raucous parade passes my house with someone singing “Old Time Rock and Roll” on a makeshift float, it’s hard not to think about what Brittney Griner is putting up with as friends and neighbors drink violently for their own freedom. The WNBA star, who has been in a Russian prison since February, gave us an idea of how she was feeling. In a handwritten letter delivered to President Joe Biden delivered on Independence Day, Griner he wrote, “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I am afraid to stay here forever.”
She is on trial in Russia in a court system where 99 percent of all prosecutions lead to conviction and facing the prospect of 10 years in prison, five of which could be spent in “forced labor” for the crime of two. THC. vape cartridges allegedly found in her luggage at a Moscow airport in February. For the Russian prosecution, this constitutes “drug smuggling”.
It doesn’t take a political scientist at the Brookings Institution to find out what happened. Whether guilty or not, and there are many reasons for doubt, authorities arrested Griner just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, sending US-Russia relations into a meltdown. She became a political prisoner, a bargaining chip for Putin both to insult the United States and to get a high-value Russian prisoner in return. However, Russia overestimated how hard the US political and sports establishment would work to free Brittney Griner. The sports media have largely turned a blind eye – one could only imagine the ruckus if it was Tom Brady or Steph Curry facing off. years in a Russian labor camp– and the political establishment in recent weeks has spoken of a better game, but has nothing to show for it. Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBA Players Association, told NPR she wants to see more from this administration than State Department statements that they “wake up every day” thinking about Griner’s plight. Jackson would you like “President Biden, our elect, to have a meeting, a date, a face to face with Cherelle Griner, BG’s wife. Because you know what? She deserves it.”
She certainly does. As the sports media turn their eyes to the intricacies of the NBA soap and the State Department offers words without results, Cherelle Griner is living a nightmare. After choosing to remain silent for months over his wife’s capture on the advice of the state department, Cherelle has gone public to increase pressure on Biden and friends to ensure they prioritize Brittney Griner’s freedom. appearing in Al Sharpton’s Sirius XM program, Cherelle courageously voiced her grief and conveyed what she had learned through her letters. She was supposed to speak to Brittney by phone, but the US Embassy, after weeks of negotiation, forgot to provide the phone number to make the connection on their third wedding anniversary. Cherelle is also going through all of this as she prepares for the Order’s exam.
Cherelle described a Brittney Griner who is almost constantly cramped, trying to tuck her six-foot-tall body into a cell and into a bed made for prisoners a fraction of her size. Is it over there said Sharpton that Brittney is “fighting” but also trying to be strong to at least try to control the weight on Cherelle’s shoulders. She said: “Since I’m her person, she will always try to write persuasively to make sure I don’t break, because she knows I’m studying for my bar and she knows I have all these things going on, and she’s always trying to be mine. strong person.”
In a letter to Cherelle, Britney wrote that she is “hardened” and not “on her knees”, writing, “But I’m holding on and I won’t break until I get home.”
The Kremlin denies that Griner is a political prisoner, but this is a “don’t spit in my face and tell me it’s raining” response. Prior to the invasion, Russia identified, targeted and arrested Griner. This in polite circles is known as “hostage diplomacy”, and this is not the first time Russia has engaged in this practice. The State Department at least acknowledges this and issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory, saying, “Russian security services have arrested US citizens on spurious charges, deployed US citizens to Russia… convicted in secret trials. and/or without providing credible evidence.”
It’s understandable, as we’re living in a country with its own growing authoritarianism, why Brittney Griner might not be at the top of anyone’s concerns. But as long as she remains in prison and as long as our own sporting world doesn’t love her enough, we need to create space to demand her freedom from her. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen rallies designed to elevate her name and the basketball world has at least done more than the first few months of her capture. But we need more. We need an international outcry. In his letter to Biden, Griner wrote: “I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore it. miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my companions! It kills me to know that they are suffering so much right now. I’m grateful for everything you can do right now to get me home.”