WNBA Star Brittney Griner Has Two Paths To Freedom | Strategy Is Everything In This Political Game Of Chess

(Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)

Brittney Griner is in a sticky situation, and though that may be the understatement of the year, her list of options moving forward to gain her freedom are extremely slim, according to ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn.

This week Quinn laid out the WNBA All-Star’s two options that could hopefully work in getting her freed.

Griner could go through the traditional route of fighting her case through Russia’s legal system. Or she could become a high-profile public case that would see her fighting for justice as a political pawn in opposition of the Russian government. 

Griner, who is an accomplished WNBA player for the Phoenix Mercury, spends her time in the offseason playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian basketball team. Due to Russia’s invasion and ongoing siege of the Ukraine, at the urging of the US government many international players fled the drama and political chaos taking place under Putin’s reign.  

Griner never had a chance to become one of those people.

She was detained around Feb. 17 while re-entering Russia to rejoin her Ekaterinburg team after the league had taken a two-week break. The authorities searched her luggage at an airport near Moscow and held the 6-foot-9 WNBA legend after claiming “vaping materials,” and “cannabis oil cartridges” were found in her luggage. Cannabis oil is apparently illegal in Russia which is why Griner was detained, and she could now be facing 5 to 10 years in prison. 

We’re just now finding out about this ordeal because the Russians didn’t disclose this until last week. This is alarming because a person of her stature and importance would garner more attention for an arrest of this magnitude, and because of that, many speculate that Russia plans on using her as a political bargaining chip. Or worse, trying to make an example out of her.

It doesn’t help that the U.S. just banned the importation of all Russian oil, which has caused financial hardship on the Russian economy and a hike in gas prices at home.

Griner embracing her role as a bargaining chip plays into one of Quinn’s two foreseeable paths that she has for her freedom.

Then she becomes a hostage instead of a criminal defendant. As a 6-9 Black gay American woman, she’s a powerful cultural symbol, and experts worry that Putin would use her as a cautionary tale of American decadence. This is why everyone around her is trying to keep it low key.” Quinn said in a tweet.

The idea for that route is that because of her stature and what she means to the WNBA community in America, some American diplomats would negotiate for Griner’s freedom and swift release, rather than let the wheels of Russian justice take their course.  

The other route is much simpler in that Griner hires a Russian defense attorney to help negotiate and smooth over her case for a much lighter sentence if she is convicted, with less drama and an expedited release. 

This route will see that she most likely faces the minimum amount of prison time in Russia, maybe even with early release, and that she isn’t in the media’s eye bringing more drama and attention to Russia, who is seen as public enemy No. 1 right now.

But as Quinn explained, either route she takes, Griner is in for a long fight for her freedom. 

Just days after the news broke of Brittney’s detainment in Russia, the world finally got to see an update on Griner as her arrest photo was published and put out for everyone to see. While she doesn’t look like she was physically harmed, she looks visibly exhausted with the predicament she finds herself in. Video of her arrest also surfaced. 

Griner has been receiving much support online from her peers and fans alike, as there are many people praying and vocalizing their support for her and her freedom.  

On top of the social media support, Griner has also received vocal support from some politicians. One politician, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas demanded that Russia release Griner from detainment.

In a statement she said to the media:

“Brittney Griner is a United States citizen, she was a guest in Russia . . . and I will be demanding her release.”

Jackson Lee is a representative of Texas, Griner’s hometown is Houston, so there is mutual love and interest between them, and Griner needs all of the political support she can get right now.

Now, unless some diplomatic miracles happen, it is very hard to pinpoint when we will see Griner in America again. With the condemnation of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, using Brittney as a bargaining chip with America will definitely be a card on the table for Russia. What everyone can pretty much agree on is that this won’t be resolved quickly. The timing of the ordeal couldn’t be worse for the player. 

Stay tuned for more details about Griner.

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