How Russia got the US basketball team to stop using Brittney Griner’s number

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and all-around basketball superstar Brittney Griner made headlines in February 2022 when she was arrested on a trip to Russia. As ESPN The 31-year-old was reportedly stopped by authorities at Moscow Airport when they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

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She was taken into custody and a question-ridden process ensued. Many believed the court case (and the eventual verdict) to be a sham, arguing that the WNBA star was being used as a political pawn.

Brittney Griner’s prison sentence explained

Brittney Griner in handcuffs being taken away by Russian police.

On August 4, 2022, Brittney Griner appeared in front of a Moscow courthouse and was found guilty of drug possession. Previously, in July 2022, she had pleaded guilty to the charges but claimed she made “an honest mistake”. However, she acknowledged that she would take full responsibility for it, saying: per ESPN“I understand everything that is being said against me, the charges that are being leveled against me and that is why I have pleaded guilty, but I had no intention of breaking any Russian laws.”

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Despite this, a judge dismissed her explanation and sentenced Griner to nine years in a penal colony. The maximum sentence was 10 years. She also slapped the professional athlete with a fine of one million rubles, or about $17,000 each NPR.

While Griner was unable to speak following her sentencing, her defense attorney, Maria Blagovolina, gave an insight into her mental state. As she told reporters, Griner was “very upset, very stressed. She can hardly speak. It’s a difficult time for her,” she added.

How USA Basketball supports Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner with her team, all wearing their uniforms and cheering.

Brittney Griner’s harsh condemnation immediately sparked an outcry. Even President Biden refused to mince words, calling it “unacceptable” and proclaiming, “Russia is wrong to hold Brittney.” The US government went a step further, reportedly beginning talks with Russia in the Hoping to release Griner as part of a prisoner swap.

However, support for the basketball great stretches well beyond Capitol Hill. While there might not be much their USA basketball teammates can do to help politicallymake your voice heard and show your support in any way you can.

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For example, in May 2022, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced per Reutersthat they would stamp their initials and jersey number — #42 — on the spots of all 12 WNBA teams. “As we enter the 2022 season, we keep Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the basketball game and in the community,” she said.

Jump to July and any player participating in the WNBA All-Star Game wore a No. 42 jersey with Griner’s name emblazoned on it for the second half of the televised game. Since Griner’s arrest, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) has also tweeted non-stop about her situation, even helping to start a petition “calling for lawmakers to prioritize Griner’s return.”

The one thing Brittney Griner’s teammates won’t do

Brittney Griner in her USA No. 15 jersey with a pumped fist.

Brittney Griner’s USA basketball teammates decided to do something special to show their unwavering support for their star player during the 2022 FIBA ​​Women’s Basketball World Cup. The three-time defending champions traveled to Sydney, Australia from September 22 to October 1, 2022 to compete in the tournament and continued to focus on Griner by refusing to wear her number on court.

USA Basketball made the announcement on Twitter, in which he writes that “USA Basketball continues to keep BG on our minds” and that “no US player will wear BG’s No. 15 in this competition in her honor”. No. 15 was the number Griner wore in international competitions.

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Speak with Associated Press Jim Tooley, CEO of USA Basketball, commented on the decision that “the best way to honor her was not to give out her number.” He called the numbering system (which usually ranges from four to 15) “very sacred” and said they were ready to make the change to show their solidarity. “Now we’re giving out 16 because we don’t want to give away Brittney’s 15 since she would have been here,” he said, adding, “It’s a small way of paying homage to her and that we’re thinking of her.”

USA coach Cheryl Reeve spoke about the toll her absence has taken AP they all think of her “every day”. Kia Nurse, Griner’s teammate at Phoenix Mercury shared, “BG is the cream of the crop when it comes to people. It was a lot this season not having her on the pitch, not having her spirit, her energy.”

Is Kim Mulkey’s silence ‘cruel and evil’?

Brittney Griner and trainer Kim Mulkey both cheer for the crowd.

Brittney Griner is on everyone’s lips not just for those who play with her, but for the entire sports community. When current Baylor Bears women’s basketball coach Nicki Collen was asked about Griner in September 2022, she almost talked about them five protocol. “I see her as a mother, as a sister, as a wife, as a daughter, as an incredible ambassador for the game of basketball,” she told reporters. Calling the ordeal a human rights issue, she added, “We should do everything in our power to get Brittney home.”

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However, there is one prominent person who has declined to comment on the matter, and that’s former Baylor Bears women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who actually coached Griner when she was on the team from 2009-2013.

Their silence has sparked incredible backlash as former Baylor players slammed Mulkey on social media. “SILENCE SPEAKS BROAD, smh” tweeted Chloe Jackson and Shakira Austin wrote, “It’s all business smh, when you’re no longer of any use to their lives watch them move after that.” Even football great Megan Rapinoe commented on Mulkey’s reaction (or lack thereof), writing: “That’s honestly just cruel and nasty and even more honest. IT SHOWS SIS. The hatred oozes out.”

The power of support through need

Brittney Griner and her team high-fiving in white US basketball uniforms.

Brittney Griner’s family, friends, and teammates may only be able to show up for Griner through words and gestures and not through specific legal action, but the power of this kind of support cannot be underestimated.

As the Mayo Clinic explains, “a strong social support network can be crucial in helping you through the stress of tough times.” Of course, Griner’s ordeal is an unprecedented situation not even remotely encompassed by the phrase “tough times,” but how As Megan Rapinoe put it bluntly, silence can have a really negative impact and it can be downright cruel.

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That’s because knowing that people are standing up for you, thinking of you, and supporting you can have “far-reaching benefits for your health.” Benefits like relieving emotional distress and boosting mental toughness as much as possible during such a heartbreaking battle.

As Ludy Green, PhD, wrote in a Medium blog post, the power of support systems is truly valuable because they can help people through the darkest of times. In a firsthand account, Green recalled how, in her greatest need, she learned how “vital” friendships can be, “not only through practical things, but also through the fact that they provided the sustenance and human warmth that my spirit.” and my soul needed .”

While offering words of support, publicly condemning Griner’s conviction, and withdrawing her act, they may seem like trivial symbolic gestures to her do maintain weight. For one, the efforts of her teammates have kept her case in the spotlight and helped ensure her plight is not forgotten. On the other hand, they gave Griner a clear message, which she hoped to receive and draw strength from: There are countless people who love and support her, and they all stand by her in her time of need.


The real reason Serena Williams quit tennis is a bittersweet lesson in sacrifice How Russia got the US basketball team to stop using Brittney Griner’s number

Sarah Y. Kim

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