WNBA players union ‘stands with’ Griner after guilty plea

Jul 6, 2022, 10:32 PM | Updated: Jul 7, 2022, 6:50 pm
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a heari...

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 7, 2022. Griner on Thursday pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling during her trial in Moscow but said she had no intention of committing a crime, Russian news agencies reported. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Brittney Griner’s guilty plea Thursday has not lessened the support the Olympic gold medalist continues to receive from her WNBA peers.

The Phoenix Mercury All-Star pleaded guilty to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court in a case that could see her sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The chance of Griner being convicted were considered extremely high before her plea.

“The WNBPA stands with Brittney Griner. With a 99% conviction rate, Russia’s process is its own. You can’t navigate it or even understand it like our own legal system,” WNBAPA Executive Director Terri Jackson said in a statement. “What we do know is that the U.S. State Department determined that Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained for a reason and we’ll leave it at that.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Griner told the court that she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she had packed for Moscow in a hurry. The trial was then adjourned until July 14.

Griner emphasized “that she had committed this act through negligence, unintentionally,” her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters outside the court near Moscow following the guilty plea.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert issued a statement saying the league is continuing its effort to aide in Griner’s release.

“Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained in Russia and nothing that happened today changes that 140 days later,” Englebert said. “The WNBA continues to work diligently with the U.S. State Department, the White House, and other allies in and outside government to get Brittney home safely and as soon as possible.

“She has the wholehearted and unconditional support of the entire WNBA and NBA family, who eagerly await her safe return, and the league will recognize BG as an honorary starter at this weekend’s WNBA All-Star Game.”

Griner, 31, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while returning to play basketball in Russia, and police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

The plea came a day after President Joe Biden had a phone conversation with Griner’s wife Cherelle during which he told her that he is working to free the two-time Olympic gold medalists as soon as possible.

Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas thanked the president in a tweet Thursday after her client entered the guilty plea.

“Brittney Griner was a model of courage today,” Kagawa Colas tweeted. “She deserves our compassion, understanding, love, and support. … We are so grateful to @POTUS and @VP for the time they spent with Cherelle confirming their commitment to bring BG and all Americans home.”

Griner’s plea came hours before her team played the New York Liberty on Thursday night. The Mercury have struggled on and off the court with their friend and teammate stuck in a prison halfway around the world.

“We’re basketball players and coaches, but when your friend is in danger, when your friend is saying in a letter that they’re scared, those things are hard to get away from,” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “We don’t get to walk into our jobs and leave our lives behind. We all know that. We’re all having that experience. With this situation with BG, it is hard for everyone on the team.”

The Mercury said little when Griner was first arrested as the request of the US government, but have become more vocal — with fellow WNBA players — as her incarceration has continued.

“It’s a real challenge. No team has ever faced this. It’s a constant undercurrent,” Nygaard said. “Things that might not be a big deal to other teams, we have this constant thing with a person we care about.”

The plea also came after Griner’s WNBA team held a public rally in support of the 6-foot-9 center with several hundred fans in attendance. The rally at the Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Mercury and Suns, was part celebration of Griner’s accomplishments on and off the court with a call to action.

“One hundred thirty-nine days have passed since my wife has been able to speak to me, to our family and our friends,” Cherelle Griner said during the rally, stopping to compose herself several times. “I’m frustrated my wife is not going to get justice. I know you all are frustrated, too. That’s why you’re here.”

___

AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix contributed to this report.

___

To see more AP stories on Griner: https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during the ...
Associated Press

Ohtani homers, wins to match Ruth as Angels top A’s 5-1

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani withstood another injury scare and pitched six scoreless innings to go with his team-leading 25th home run, reaching yet another monumental milestone as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Tuesday night. The two-way Japanese star joined Babe Ruth (1918) as the only players in major […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Serena Williams, of the United States  celebrates a point against compatriot Christina McHal...
Associated Press

Serena Williams’ legacy involves plenty of wins, plenty else

A couple of days before Serena Williams claimed the 22nd of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 2016, she was asked what she makes of it when people refer to her as one of history’s greatest female athletes. Her reply: She prefers being characterized as “one of the greatest athletes of all […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Jonquel Jones’ double-double leads Sun past Sparks 97-71

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jonquel Jones had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help the Connecticut Sun ease past the Los Angeles Sparks 97-71 on Tuesday night. Connecticut (23-11) stayed a game behind second-place Las Vegas in the playoff chase. The Sun will stay in Los Angeles for a rematch on Thursday before closing out […]
22 hours ago
Pittsburgh Pirates' Rodolfo Castro reacts after making the last out against the Arizona Diamondback...
Associated Press

Castro loses phone in Pirates’ 6-4 loss to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX (AP) — Pittsburgh infielder Rodolfo Castro lost his phone on the field and the Pirates were stymied by rookie Tommy Henry in a 6-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. Henry (1-1) was sharp in his Chase Field debut, allowing a run on four hits in seven innings for his first big […]
22 hours ago
Colorado Rockies' Ryan McMahon follows the flight of his two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals r...
Associated Press

McMahon, Grichuk tee off, Rockies end Cards’ win streak at 7

DENVER (AP) — Ryan McMahon hit a 495-foot homer for the longest drive by a Colorado player at Coors Field, Randal Grichuk went 5 for 5 and the Rockies routed St. Louis 16-5 Tuesday night, ending the Cardinals’ seven-game winning streak. “It felt really good,” McMahon said. “After you hit it you don’t have very […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Plum scored 18 of her 22 points in 2nd half, Aces beat Dream

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kelsey Plum scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half, A’ja Wilson had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and the Las Vegas Aces held off the Atlanta Dream 97-90 on Tuesday night. Las Vegas (24-10) pulled within one game of first-place Chicago with two games to play, including hosting […]
22 hours ago
WNBA players union ‘stands with’ Griner after guilty plea