One hundred and sixty-eight days after Brittney Griner was arrested at an airport outside of Moscow, the WNBA star was found guilty of charges that she tried to smuggle drugs into Russia and was sentenced to nine years as her trial concluded Thursday.
Griner's guilty verdict and sentence were expected, but now that the trial is over, negotiations for her release are expected to accelerate between the Russian and United States governments.
Griner was arrested and taken into custody on Feb. 17 on her way to play for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she has played during WNBA offseasons since 2014. Customs officials say they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil. In early May, the U.S. Department of State declared Griner a wrongful detainee, opening the way for the United States to negotiate her release.
In early June, the United States secretly offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American considered to be wrongfully detained. But Griner's trial started July 1, and she pleaded guilty July 7, saying she never intended to break the law -- a strategy from Griner's legal team in the hopes the judge would be lenient during sentencing.
News of Griner's verdict and sentencing put the sports world on alert, and many WNBA players as well as athletes and coaches took to social media to react to the news.
#FreeBrittneyGriner we will not stop advocating for you release. Hold on to God unchanging hand. We love you, BG! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) August 4, 2022
FREE BG❗️— Paige Bueckers (@paigebueckers1) August 4, 2022
No way they did that to BG!!!! No way!!!! God be with her please— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) August 4, 2022
FREE BG 🧡💜— Jaden Ivey (@IveyJaden) August 4, 2022
Omg 💔💔 This can't be real! We love you BG!— stefanie dolson (@bigmamastef) August 4, 2022
Another example of the unequal treatment of humans in this world! You have criminals walking around who hurt others and she gets 9 years for them accusing her of hurting herself! History repeats itself again for political gain! 🙏🏿 for Brittney she is a wonderful person! https://t.co/yjPfwkR7kk— Eddie A Johnson (@Jumpshot8) August 4, 2022
Ain't gone lie 9 years is crazyyyyyy— Bones Hyland (@BizzyBones11) August 4, 2022
My heart goes out to BG's family and her wife! ❤️ Today hit a little different man like that's our sister! I can't even imagine how her family feels! I pray God is protecting her mental but more importantly keep fighting BG.— Erica Wheeler (@EWeezy_For3eezy) August 4, 2022
...gotta bring you home!
No way! 9 years? Bring our sister and friend home. #FREEBG— Grant Williams (@Grant2Will) August 4, 2022
Many WNBA players tweeted about watching a live feed of the trial and the impact of seeing Griner behind bars, listening as the sentence was quietly translated to her.
Seeing BG behind these bars is breaking my heart. Praying hard for her today— Diamond DeShields (@diamonddoesit1) August 4, 2022
i just.. watching that live of BG...💔💔— Amanda Zahui B. (@AmandaZahuiB) August 4, 2022