Brittney Griner’s verdict resonates with queer Black women and nonbinary people

A Russian decide on Thursday sentenced WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner to 9 years in a penal colony for drug possession and smuggling, along with a $1 million ruble high quality, after being held for months in what the U.S. authorities has categorized as a “wrongful detainment.” 

Griner’s case, which was first reported in March, has been adopted intently by queer Black women and nonbinary activists, who informed The nineteenth that her plight is private to them. The WNBA star is without doubt one of the most well-known, and most seen, Black lesbians on the earth — and her case highlights the racial disparities that Black women are subjected to. 

“What she’s experiencing isn’t foreign to us,” stated Victoria Kirby York, deputy government director of the Nationwide Black Justice Coalition. 

The Williams Institute on the UCLA College of Legislation present in 2017 that one-third of women in U.S. prisons establish as lesbian or bisexual — and people of shade, particularly Black people, have lengthy been over-policed, particularly in terms of drug prices. 

York stated that Griner’s case feels private to her and different Black LGBTQ+ people “because she’s one of us” — but in addition due to the circumstances surrounding her detainment. That Griner was stopped to start with and detained whereas sporting a hoodie that stated “Black lives for peace” solely drives these emotions deeper, she stated.

Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian authorities discovered lower than a gram of hashish oil and vape cartridges in her baggage, although officers waited a number of weeks to inform the USA. She pleaded responsible to drug prices previous to the conviction — which her legal professionals stated final month was a call made within the hopes of avoiding a extreme sentence. The decide on Thursday stated that Griner’s time spent imprisoned since February can be included in her sentencing. 

  • Earlier Protection:

    Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court.

  • Earlier Protection:

    WNBA star Brittney Griner pleads responsible to drug prices in Russia

Griner can attraction the sentence through a written assertion inside 10 days of her verdict. A lawyer for Griner didn’t return requests for remark by publication time, however The Related Press stories that her attorneys anticipate a listening to subsequent week in Moscow regional courtroom. 

American officers, whose preliminary public response was criticized as gradual, are nonetheless working to deliver Griner again. Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed reporters final week that he had mentioned a proposal for the discharge of each Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia, as a part of a prisoner swap. 

Blinken on Thursday stated that Griner’s conviction and sentencing spotlights the company’s considerations with the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions, including that the company nonetheless plans to work to deliver Griner and Whelan house. 

Quickly after Griner’s sentencing, President Joe Biden repeated the USA’ stance that Russia is wrongfully detaining Griner, and stated his administration would proceed to work in the direction of her launch. He urged Russia “to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.” 

Imadé Nibokun Borha is founding father of the nonprofit Depressed Whereas Black, which connects purchasers to Black therapists and sends Black magnificence provides to psychiatric sufferers. She stated watching Griner’s verdict reminded her of what the USA has accomplished to Black people for hundreds of years. 

“It’s really triggering to see a queer Black person in a cage,” she stated. “It makes me think about how Black women, Black queer women, how we’re considered disposable in our society.” 

Borha sees the verdict finally because the criminalization of Black self-care. The decide on Thursday acknowledged, whereas laying out the circumstances  that led to Griner’s verdict, that the WNBA star acknowledged she wanted the hashish oil to help her restoration from a sports activities harm. 

“It’s concerning that Brittney has helped so many people, entertained so many people, inspired so many people, and yet she’s alone in a cell,” Borha stated. 

Kierra Johnson, government director of the Nationwide LGBTQ+ Process Drive, has had a signed Griner jersey hanging in her workplace for the reason that WNBA star was arrested in February. The Phoenix Mercury jersey shows the title of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by cops in her Louisville residence in 2020 — a connection that strikes Johnson with extra weight now, as Griner’s verdict comes simply because the Justice Division prices officers concerned with Taylor’s demise. 

black and white mural by Isaac Campbell in Washington D.C. of Americans held overseas, including WNBA star Brittney Griner
Griner is depicted in a mural created by artist Isaac Campbell in Washington, D.C., that depicts U.S. residents who’re being wrongfully detained or held hostage overseas.
(STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP through Getty Photographs)

“These two women have nothing in common, except they’re Black women and have been devalued and not protected,” she stated. 

Watching Griner’s verdict on Thursday — and watching the basketball star await that verdict whereas in a cage — was devastating to Johnson. 

“I see myself in her. I see my family in her. I see the growing numbers of women in this country in prison for petty, petty crimes,” she stated. She broke down in tears at one level when watching the sentence, and though her emotional response in a technique felt unusual since she doesn’t know Griner personally, it nonetheless feels so private. 

“It feels like we’re under attack everywhere. Queer people are under attack everywhere. Black people are under attack everywhere. Women seem to be under attack everywhere. And to be a queer Black women from the United States at this time, it’s like there’s a target on your back,” she stated. 

On the White Home’s response to Griner’s sentencing, Johnson needs to know what escalation appears like with a view to get her house. 

In her closing assertion on Thursday, Griner apologized to her teammates, followers, and to town of Yekaterinburg, the place the Russian women’s basketball group that Griner has incessantly performed on relies — which she stated had change into her “second home.” She stated that she by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines in Russia, telling the decide: “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, it doesn’t end my life here.” 

“I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, my Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home. I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner stated. 

Griner has been taking part in in Russia to complement her earnings — which greater than half of WNBA gamers do, in response to an April op-ed penned by Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who famous that “top athletes can make six to seven times the maximum WNBA salary overseas — and the disparity as recently as 2019 was 10 to 15 times more than WNBA salaries.” That Griner and different WNBA gamers should go abroad to complement their salaries additionally speaks to the pay fairness disparity in women’s sports activities, York stated. 

The verdict was heartbreaking and scary to look at, stated Imani Rupert-Gordon, government director of the Nationwide Heart for Lesbian Rights — and pointed to how alone Griner is. And though advocates anticipated Griner to be convicted, in gentle of Russia’s monitor document with felony trials, it nonetheless struck a chord. 
“It doesn’t feel fair,” Rupert-Gordon stated.

In a joint assertion, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated Thursday’s verdict “is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected,” including that the leagues are nonetheless dedicated to her secure return house. 

“It is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States,” the assertion learn. The WNBPA union urged Blinken and his Russian counterpart Lavrov to debate the proposed launch plan for Griner, saying in an announcement: “It is Day 168. It is time that BG comes home swiftly and safely.”

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