Joe Biden condemns Griner sentence and calls for ‘immediate release’

The nine-and-a half-year sentence handed down by a Russian court to WBNA player and US Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner after she was found guilty of drug possession was greeted in America with outrage and condemnation.

Joe Biden released a statement following Griner’s sentencing, calling her detention “unacceptable”.

The US president said: “American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. 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.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, shared a statement about Griner’s sentencing on Twitter, writing: “The Russian court’s conviction and sentencing of US citizen Brittney Griner spotlights our concerns with the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions.”

Blinken further reiterated his commitment to bringing Griner home along with Paul Whelan, another American citizen who has been detained in Russia since 2020.

The WBNA and NBA posted a joint statement on Twitter following Thursday’s verdict in Moscow: “Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained.

“The WBNA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of the process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”

The Rev Al Sharpton blasted Griner’s sentencing, calling it a “moral outrage”.

“The sentencing of Brittney Griner is a moral outrage and a legal atrocity in any court in the world,” said Sharpton in statement released via Twitter.

Several WBNA players also posted their own messages demanding Griner’s freedom following Thursday’s sentencing.

Las Vegas Aces player A’ja Wilson retweeted a message about Griner’s accomplishments and previously posted “Free BG” before Griner’s sentencing.

Before Griner’s sentencing, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, the union representing WBNA players, posted several tweets about Griner’s impact and leadership: “It is day 168. It is time that BG comes home swiftly and safely.”

Griner has been detained in Russia since being arrested at a Moscow airport in February when Russian authorities found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her bag.

Griner’s defense lawyer team has called the verdict “absolutely ridiculous” and has said they will file an appeal, reported the New York Times.

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