International political games cannot cost a defenseless modern basketball star 9 years in prison

The trial involving women’s basketball star Brittney Griner is continuing at its worst. A little more than two months after the first-instance ruling, the Moscow Court of Appeals upheld the 9-year sentence for one of the most influential players on the WNBA and global basketball scene. The life and career of the Texan winner of two Olympic gold medals, one NCAA tournament, one WNBA title, four Euroleagues and, surreal to say, four Russian championships, seem to be crumbling at the peak.

Griner had been caught last Feb. 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport with 0.72 grams of hash oil contained in some liquid e-cigarette charges. The dominant center was returning to Russia in order to continue her second basketball season of the year, just like other professional players involved in both the WNBA and major European leagues: in this case in the Russian one, with the powerhouse team Ekaterinburg. The defence argues that Griner had a prescription for the therapeutic use of cannabis.

Griner, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, an openly homosexual African American, an active supporter of Lgbtq+ rights and of the Biden presidency, rather than appearing to be a criminal, simply seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time: in the midst of Ukrainian-Russian tensions and an irremediable international socio-political fracture. That’s why her profile immediately seemed sinisterly functional for a dark chess game between the Kremlin and the White House.

Pawn and sacrificial victim, Griner’s status has quickly transitioned from that of global super athlete to the “political hostage” one, as stated by her wife Cherelle on CBS microphones. Words confirmed by the numerous contacts that have been going on for months between the White House and the Kremlin. It would indeed be arms dealer Viktor Bout, better known as the Merchant of Death, the other pawn that would grant freedom to the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the complex Russian-American chessboard. The current status of entrepreneurs Artem Uss and Yury Orekhov, who were arrested on an international warrant by the U.S. judiciary, could also affect Griner’s parable.

“Brittney Griner, after another sham trial, will continue to be unfairly detained under intolerable circumstances,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Words publicly shared by Joe Biden himself, who called for Griner’s immediate release and said he will continue to work until this situation is resolved.

Helpless and at the center of this delicate game of international political balances, Brittney Griner continues to be detained near Moscow, unable to communicate and for now destined to live the next 9 years in a Russian penal colony for a sentence that for the defence attorney Alexander Boykov “does not appear to be in accordance with Russian criminal law”.

Griner meanwhile spent her 32nd birthday in prison and spoke via videoconference during yesterday’s trial, apologizing for her naiveté and hoping to see an “extremely stressful and traumatic trial” come to the best possible conclusion: a hope that for the moment has been dashed against the insurmountable wall of the contemporary Iron Curtain.

Credits: Lorie Shaull, commons Wikimedia.
Testo a cura di Gianmarco Pacione