A Different “#FreeBrittney”


Imagine if a star NBA player like Lebron James or Steph Curry was being detained in Russia right now. There is no doubt in my mind that the NBA, US Government, and the people in America, basketball fans or not, would be doing whatever possible to bring them home. Why is it then, that WNBA star Brittney Griner is still being detained in Russia? It has been multiple weeks since Griner was arrested at a Russian airport on a drug trafficking charge for attempting to fly with a marijuana product for personal use. To really understand this issue, one must first have at least a basic understanding of what led up to her detainment. 

Brittney Griner boasts an accolade list longer than her wingspan, ranging from multiple Olympic gold medals to a WNBA championship. She is a 7 time All-Star, and one of the premier talents of the WNBA. Despite all these accomplishments, she only makes a fraction of the money average NBA players earn. Like many other WNBA athletes, Griner plays overseas in different professional women’s basketball leagues during the WNBA offseason to make more money. One of her teams, UMMC Ekaterinburg, is a Russian team that plays in the Euroleague. She has played for Ekaterinburg since 2014, where she is making four times the salary of her WNBA contract. 

Now that you have some background knowledge about why Griner was in Russia, it’s easier to see why her detainment is such a big issue. As tensions continue to rise between Russia and the rest of the world, Griner is being held as a sort of political trade piece. Griner’s Russian team Ekaterinburg is owned by two Russian oligarchs, Iskander Makhmudov and Andrei Kozitsyn. They are both owners of a large scale mining company in Russia, and both have reportedly been very close with the Kremlin in the last few years. If they wanted to help free Griner from her detainment, they would certainly have the connections and clout to do so. But of course, they haven’t, because they, and the Kremlin, know that holding Griner for as long as possible can only help Russia in this conflict. 

My biggest annoyance with this issue has been our country’s reaction to it. Griner is in danger as long as she is still being held in Russia. Not only because of the conflicts Russia has created with other countries, but also due to the fact that she is openly part of the LGBTQ community, a group that the Russian government has historically been against. Aside from being an astounding basketball player, Griner is a US citizen who is in danger and our government is doing next to nothing to help her.