WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver criticized this Thursday (4) the conviction in Russia of American player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for possession and smuggling of drugs , and asked for the athlete’s immediate return to the United States.
“Today’s verdict and sentence have no justification and are a disgrace. But, not unexpected, and Griner continues to be unfairly detained”, said the two directors, in a joint statement.
The two leagues, through their highest representatives, guarantee that the commitment to guarantee the return from Griner to the United States was not changed and they expressed hope that the process for this to happen is close to an end.
The American basketball player’s manager stated that the athlete is being used as a “a political pawn”. Lindsay Kagawa Colas pointed out, in a series of messages posted on Twitter, that the sentence is severe “even by Russian standards”.
The businesswoman also thanked the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for his efforts to obtain the release of the athlete, who the US government considers unfairly imprisoned.
Earlier, Biden had appealed for Russia to release “immediately ” the athlete, according to a statement issued by the White House.
The head of state promised that the US government will continue to work “without rest” and “seeking all possible avenues” for Griner and the ex-Marine Paul Whelan, also imprisoned in Russia, “come home and be safe as soon as possible.”
At the end of last month, the White House made a proposal to try to release of Griner and Whelan, according to the American broadcaster CNN, in a prisoner exchange with arms dealer Viktor Bout, imprisoned in the US A and whose release is demanded by the Kremlin.
Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport with cannabis oil in her luggage. The judge responsible for the case, Anna Sotnikova, found the athlete guilty of committing the crime stipulated in articles 228 and 229.1 of the Russian penal code (drug possession and trafficking).