The WNBA and NBA are speaking out in the wake of Brittney Griner’s conviction.
The eight-time WNBA All-Star who currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury was arrested on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow for drug charges related to a vape canister containing cannabis oil. On Thursday -- 168 days after her arrest -- Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The statement, made by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, read:
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Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.
The WNBA and NBA have worked in conjunction over the past five and a half months, highlighting Griner’s imprisonment throughout primetime events such as the NBA playoffs and the WNBA All-Star weekend.
Ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, Silver reiterated the league’s commitment to encouraging and supporting efforts to release Griner.
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“We are working in lockstep with the U.S. government and outside experts … to expedite her release in any way we can,” he said.
This statement came two weeks after Silver addressed the matter at the NBA draft, saying that the league had a “huge responsibility” to Griner. He added that they had agreed to stay relatively quiet up to that point based on experts' suggestion that “amplifying” the pressure for Griner’s release was not in the best interest of negotiations.
Sources close to the situation say this sentencing -- while disappointing to those advocating for Griner’s release -- was expected and is believed to be a step toward returning Griner from Russian custody. The Russian government indicated that any negotiations or prisoner swaps would likely occur after sentencing.
Twitter was quick to respond to the sentencing with players across both the NBA and WNBA showing an outpouring of support and emotion on Griner’s behalf.