Friday, August 05, 2022

My Weekend Free BG

Well, we’ve entered worst case scenario zone in the case of Brittney Griner. In custody in Russia since Feb. 17, the WNBA superstar has been wrongfully detained away from her wife, family, friends, and country for six months already. And yesterday the Russian court handed down almost as strict a sentence as possible — giving her 9 years in prison. All for accidentally carrying a couple cannabis vape cartridges with her into Russia as she went to play off-season for her international team.

Never mind that Brittney and her family/friends have done everything they could to have her freed. Immediately following her arrest, they tried to turn down the political heat and negotiate without too much media. Then, when it was clear that wasn’t working, they went wide with their message.

Indeed Brittney actually confessed before her trial started (though, in Russian, they continue after a confession anyway). And she apologized and owned up to her mistake during the trial, asking for leniency from the judge. But instead, Russia is now using her as an obvious political pawn.

While initially their response has been slow, I do think the Biden Administration has been more aggressively tracking her case. President Biden issued a statement almost immediately yesterday condemning the verdict and sentence. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made a “substantial proposal” for a prisoner swap. Reporting suggests the deal could include Brittney and fellow American Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 and was sentenced to 16 years in a labor camp for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

As much as I’d rather not have an international merchant of death set free, these Americans need to come home. Period.

Russia is clearly making an example of Brittney. Here is a wildly successful Black and queer female athlete at the top of her game who is married to a woman and presents more masculine. The Russian government is vehemently anti-LGBTQ+, and public displays of queer activism, solidarity or just love are actively quashed. So of course, of course they’ve given Brittney the harshest sentence possible. We can only hope it is for leverage for an inevitable prisoner swap.

The fact is, if the United States and WNBA valued female athletes and paid them similarly to their male counterparts, she wouldn’t even have to be in Russia or to play for a foreign team off-season.

It’s hard to overstate how big a star Brittney is in women’s basketball. NCAA champion. No. 1 draft pick. WNBA champion. Eight-time All-Star (she was named an honorary All-Star this year). Two-time Olympic gold medalist. This is rarified air for any athlete, male or female.

Yet her detention in Russia continues to drag on without much public outcry, aside from queer women everywhere and WNBA fans and her family. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has clearly been very vocal. Megan Rapinoe, whose fiancée Sue Bird is herself a huge WNBA star, wore Brittney’s initials embroidered on her suit’s lapel when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this month from President Biden. And some NBA stars have also spoken out — a little.

And as frustrating as that is, the grossest part of her detention and now conviction is that American conservatives are cheering it on. I’ve seen the jokes and memes from Right Wing trolls about her deserving what she gets and other even less charitable (and obviously more racist and homophobic) characterizations. And that The Orange Stain weighed in to call Brittney “spoiled.” In case you need a reminder, the U.S. Right Wing and Russian authoritarian ideologies are in disgusting lock step. Empathy is simply not a conservative value.

I can’t imagine the anguish her wife feels, her family feels, her friends feel. I just know more people need to be demanding her release, and at every opportunity. Brittney, for her part, has apologized to the family, team and wife for what she calls an “honest mistake,” and told the court her hopes its ruling “does not end my life.”

God, I hope not either. Keep the pressure on. Keep the faith. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. Free Brittney Griner. And, once more with feeling, free Brittney Griner. Happy weekend, all.


Carmen San Diego said...

Free Brittney Griner

Anonymous said...

Situation sucks and I hope they negotiate her release ASAP. I do think we all need to understand it is just not in the control of Biden or the US government, it is totally up to Putin and Russia. It doesn't do a lot of good to try to pressure our government, which may just make Russia think they can hold out for a better deal or just keep her to spite us all.

I do think she should never have gone there when she did. The State Dept had been warning US citizens to leave and not go there for several weeks at that point. She screwed up. It can be simultaneously true that BG did a tremendously stupid thing going there, whether or not the vape cartridges were really hers or were planted, and that she doesn't deserve what is happening. What a mess.

Anonymous said...

We generally see eye to eye DS but not a whole lot of sympathy from me here. But that may be cultural in that I come from a country where drugs are illegal.