Sports

America has failed Brittney Griner


Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner
Photo: Getty Images

Brittney Griner should be at home right now.

Nobody should be jailed for cannabis in the first place, either in Russia or here. Nobody should be detained for three weeks over hashish oil in their luggage on their way out of a country. should be held prisoner as a means to apply diplomatic pressure, as it appears Russia is doing in detaining a high-profile American athlete as a response to the United States backing Ukraine’s resistance to Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

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And Griner isn’t just a regular American. The 31-year-old is a future Hall of Famer, a champion in both college and the pros, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a seven-time WNBA All-Star, part of the WNBA’s 25th anniversary team, and the first player to dunk in the WNBA playoffs. She’s also a prominent Black lesbian, and Putin’s record on both race and sexuality is nightmarish.

So, the most important thing is making sure that Griner gets home safely. But Griner should be home right now.

The United States is the richest country on the planet and Earth’s most dominant force in women’s basketball. Yet Griner, one of the very best the game has ever seen, has spent years in China and Russia, playing during the WNBA offseason because those countries pay better. If anything, Griner and many others are playing in the WNBA during the European offseason, not the other way around.

This is not a new phenomenon. Becky Hammon, born and raised in South Dakota, college star at Colorado State, and WNBA star with New York and San Antonio, played for Russia at the 2008 Olympics, because she also starred for CSKA Moscow and Russia offered her citizenship to join their national team, and she was getting $500,000 a year to play there.

Even though the WNBA has the letters NBA, the league still isn’t even close to treating players as well as the foreign leagues. The WNBA is out here instead fining the Liberty a half-million bucks and threatening to kick New York out of the league over the team chartering flights so that players wouldn’t be subject to the whims of commercial aviation.

The best players in the world deserve to be able to play at home, not just have a stopover here during the summer, on break from the gig where they make their real money. Griner should have been getting what she’s worth from the Phoenix Mercury all along, not from UMMC Ekaterinburg.

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Brittney Griner should be at home right now.

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