Brittney Griner is taking action after being served a nine-year prison sentence in Russia. According to ESPN, lawyers for the WNBA star filed an appeal on Monday after being convicted of drug possession. Griner was arrested in Moscow in February after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at the airport. She was convicted on Aug. 4.
The appeal was not a surprise as Griner's lawyers were planning to do so once the conviction was handed down. Griner admitted she had canisters in her luggage but said she inadvertently packed them and had no criminal intent. Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, argued that the sentence was excessive as defendants in similar cases have received on average a five-year sentence.
When the verdict was announced, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a joint statement. "Today's verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained," the two said. "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."
President Joe Biden, who is attempting to get Griner back to the United States via prisoner trade, also reacted to the verdict. "Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney," Biden said. "It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible."
Griner, 31, plays for the Russian basketball team BC UMMC Ekaterinburg and has been with the team since 2014. In 2013, Griner was selected No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft. She has become of the greatest players in WNBA history, being named an all-star eight times, leading the league in blocks eight times and winning the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year twice. In her first season with the Mercury, Griner was selected to the All-Rookie Team and led Phoenix to a WNBA Championship.