A representative for Griner would not reveal the full letter or detail how it got from Griner’s jail cell outside Moscow to the White HouseGetty Images
The “public pressure is now building on President Biden” to intervene in the case of WNBA Phoenix Mercury C Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for four-and-a-half months, after she sent a “handwritten letter” which was Delivered to the White House on Monday, according to NBC’s Peter Alexander. The letter from Griner is “both powerful and personal.” Alexander: “Griner begs President Biden to intervene … (as) her trial began last Friday and because there’s no presumption of innocence there. She’s all but certain to be found guilty. A White House spokesperson says the US is working aggressively to bring Griner home, that President Biden’s team is in regular contact with her family and Griner’s wife has been pushing for a meeting with the president” (“Today,” NBC, 7/5). Griner in the letter wrote, “I’m terrified I might be here forever.” A representative for Griner said that they would “not release the entire letter or detail how it got from Griner’s jail cell outside Moscow to the White House.” ESPN.com’s TJ Quinn noted Griner has been able to “send and receive notes to friends and family through her Russian attorneys,” although all the messages have been “monitored by Russian officials.” Griner’s trial is “scheduled to continue Thursday.” She has “yet to enter a plea,” but sources familiar with her case said that there is a “strong chance she pleads guilty, knowing that Russian officials would require an admission of guilt as part of any deal to send her home” (ESPN.com, 7/4).
PERCEIVED VALUEIn Pittsburgh, Gene Collier wrote Griner as of Friday is at the “center of one of Russia’s infamous show trials,” the kind where prosecutors “basically just read an inflated set of charges while the accused stands by implacably in a steel cage.” Had Russia not invaded Ukraine in February and Griner’s arrest “happened in peace time,” the “whole mess would have ended with a few diplomatic phone calls.” Instead, with Russia under “withering US and global economic sanctions,” Griner is “looking at 10 years of hard time, as only about one percent of these trials end in acquittal.” This also speaks to the “perceived value of the sports and the leagues involved,” as if Griner were Warriors G Steph Curry, diplomatic efforts to bring her back “might be a little more intense.” Her “optimal outcome would be a trade, and there’s no shortage of speculation on one at the international press,” with reports saying Griner could be sent back to the US in “exchange for imprisoned gun-runner Viktor Bout” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/2).
WATCH THE GAP: In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote Griner could be on an WNBA court instead of in a “foreign power’s kangaroo one” if the “wage gap between women’s basketball players and their male counterparts wasn’t as wide as the political divide” in the US That pay gap is why Griner was “in Russia in the first place.” Griner was making $1-$1.5M playing for “oligarch-funded UMMC Ekaterinburg, a superpower that has long shelled out top dollar for the world’s best women’s players.” While Griner’s safety and freedom are the “paramount concerns,” her ordeal has “cast a light on the plight of women’s professional basketball players.” WNBA players are “compelled to play in foreign countries to maximize their worth,” as they “can’t bank on money from the league.” Gasper: “No one has the expectation that WNBA players make the same as their NBA counterparts. The revenue disparity would never support that. But sports and leagues offer value beyond their balance sheets, especially when they symbolize opportunity and equality. If we say we value those as a society, then we need to demand more of the NBA relative to the WNBA.” The “most socially conscious” of the major sports leagues needs to “put more of its money where its mouth is on gender equity” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/3).
HOSTAGE SITUATION: A WASHINGTON POST editorial stated Griner is a “hostage, taken by President Vladimir Putin and his sprawling police state.” Her “‘trial’ could drag on for months,” and Putin will “undoubtedly want to trade her for a Russian incarcerated in the United States, such as convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.” This puts the US in an “extremely difficult position.” A trade could “win freedom” for Griner but would “encourage more hostage-taking; a refusal to trade would consign her to more agony in a Russian prison” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/2).