9 Months. 42 Weeks. 294 Day is the length of time Brittney Griner spent detained by Russian authorities, prior to, during, and after her subsequent sentencing. Brittney Griner was arrested on February 17, 2022, in Russia on “smuggling” charges. Smuggling is a word that has been used heavily in the media regarding Brittney’s arrest. This term is ambiguous at best.
Brittney Griner was prescribed medical cannabis by a Doctor in Arizona. While returning to Russia, to play for one of their Women's Basketball Clubs, Griner was arrested for possession of illegal substances in Russia. She had a vapor cartridge containing less than “1 Gram” of hash cannabis oil.
Instead of Russia giving a fair and humane trial, they used her as a political pawn. After being in and out of various detention centers post her February arrest, the Russian government sentenced Brittney to 9 years for her actions in early August.
Many supporters believed there was a lack of urgency for justice for Brittney Griner from the United States Government. This sentiment was particularly expressed by leading voices in the in the Black and Women’s’ rights activist communities. Their grievances enlightened many of the disparities professional women athletes face. Deductively, it could be concluded if Brittney received compensation commensurate to her male counterparts she may have not had to compete in Russia. This is easily understood when given these numbers: The average WNBA player earns annually approximately $78,000.00 which is well below the 5.1 million earned on average in the NBA.
Brittney was arrested in February. The United States did not publicly state her arrest as a “wrongful arrest” until early May. While this may seem like a short time lapse, one should consider the larger implications this has on Brittney’s wellness and career. As a professional athlete diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and training are all key components of any preparation protocol for any tournament. While incarcerated Brittney was not likely to have access to all the requisite resources to maintain her athletic performance capabilities. “Ms. Griner is allowed outside once a day, said Mr. Boykov, a Russian spokesperson- during which she walks for an hour in a small courtyard at a penal colony outside Moscow...” (New York Times). For 9 months, Brittney was 5000 miles away from her closest loved one. She went weeks at times without talking to her wife. Once a day for an hour, Brittney was allowed outside- once a day, one hour for a woman who helped to acquire 2 Olympic Gold Medals for the U.S.
After news of her detention broke on March 5, 2022, some observers connected her detention to Russia's history of holding high profile travelers as political prisoners. "This follows a pattern of Russia wrongly detaining & imprisoning US citizens, including Trevor Reed," Texas Representative Joaquin Castro tweeted at the time. "US citizens are not political pawns. Brittney, Trevor, and other Americans must be safely returned." (Reed is a former Marine who had been detained in Russia since 2019; he was returned home in April 2022.)
On December 9, Griner touched down on U.S. soil, landing at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center, where she underwent a medical evaluation before returning home. This is one component of a lengthy list of reentry protocols set by the US State Department, especially for those detained at length by hostile governments. Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, told CNN she got back on the court over that first weekend and made her first move, a slam dunk. “She’s doing extremely well. She seems to have endured this in incredible ways.” Still, Colas added, “She’s reintegrating into a world that has changed for her now. From a pure security standpoint, she’s not going to be able to move in the world the way she did.”
In her first public statement since her release, Griner posted photos of herself stepping off the plane and hugging Cherelle to Instagram, confirming she intends to play basketball for the Phoenix Mercury this season and sharing her gratitude “to each person who advocated” for her freedom. Thanking her wife, team, legal representation, and the Biden-Harris administration for bringing her home, Griner expressed her hopes that Paul Whelan will be freed from Russia soon, adding that she will use her platform “to do whatever I can to help.” On behalf of all American detainees, Griner continued, “I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”