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Getting Brittney Griner Home – The New Yorker

The cage was small, even for a cage, and Brittney Griner ducked her head as she entered it. By then, a month into her trial in Khimki, outside of Moscow, for charges of drug pos…….

The cage was small, even for a cage, and Brittney Griner ducked her head as she entered it. By then, a month into her trial in Khimki, outside of Moscow, for charges of drug possession, she knew the drill. She pursed her lips as she offered her long inked arms to the guard, who unlocked the handcuffs. Griner wore a gray T-shirt, gray shoes, charcoal joggers; her dreadlocks were pulled back, and wire-rimmed glasses framed her large, weary eyes. Griner stands six feet nine inches tall, and her playing weight is more than two hundred pounds. When she began playing in the W.N.B.A., for the Phoenix Mercury—she was the first pick in the 2013 W.N.B.A. draft—she was such a dominant and dynamic physical force that she single-handedly changed the perception of possibilities in women’s basketball. (She threw down two dunks in her first game alone.) Since then, she’s won a W.N.B.A. championship, four EuroLeague championships, and two Olympic gold medals, and has been named one of the twenty-five best players in W.N.B.A. history. But, in the courtroom, as she awaited the verdict in what one United States congressman had already called a “sham trial,” she looked drawn, and vulnerable.

It was August 4th. It had been six months since Griner was pulled out of a security line at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Officials found vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil—seven tenths of a gram, roughly the weight of a small raisin—in her bag. Griner told the court she hadn’t known that the cartridges were there; she’d packed in haste, while recovering from COVID, rushing to join the other members of U.M.M.C. Ekaterinburg, the Russian team that Griner plays for during the W.N.B.A. offseason. (Top players can make six to seven times their W.N.B.A. salaries overseas.) Doctors in Arizona had prescribed her cannabis to help her deal with pain after more than a decade of sustaining injuries. She hadn’t meant to bring any drugs into Russia, and hadn’t realized what was happening to her as the nightmare unfolded. During her detainment at the airport, the translator had been withholding; Griner had to resort to the Google translate app to understand what people were saying. She’d been forced to sign papers without knowing what was on them, she said. Her phone was seized, and she was taken to prison. The maximum sentence for the charges was ten years.

Griner shared a cell with two other English-speaking women, in a prison that was once an orphanage. Her bed was too short for her to stretch …….

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/getting-brittney-griner-home

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