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The WNBA and the NBA called for the release of Brittney Griner after the two-time Olympic gold medalist was found guilty of drug charges and sentenced to nine years in prison on Thursday.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver maintained in a joint statement shortly after the news of Griner’s sentencing broke that she was “wrongly detained,” echoing the sentiment of the White House on Thursday,
WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants’ cage during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
“Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained,” the statement read. “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 Biden issued a statement earlier calling the trial and subsequent sentence “unacceptable.”
“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 in a statement.
“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.”
WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, sits inside a defendants’ cage after the court’s verdict during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prosecutors in Griner’s case asked for a 9.5-year sentence, but the court came down with a nine-year sentence, taking into account Griner’s guilty plea last month. She was also fined 1 million rubles, roughly $16,200.
Six-time WNBA All-Star and current head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks Dawn Staley took to social media to react to news of Griner’s sentencing.
Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born former U.S. intelligence officer and expert on Russia and Vladimir Putin, told Fox News Digital on Thursday that the road ahead in negotiating a deal to secure Griner’s release will not be an easy one to navigate.
“Ms. Griner is a victim of the crisis of the U.S.-Russian relations, which is the worst in history, in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So it will be a very long road for her, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. side considers Ms. Griner’s arrest as illegitimate, despite the fact that Brittney admitted to having broken Russian law,” Koffler explained.
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted from a court room after her last words, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
“The Biden Administration calls Griner ‘wrongfully detained,’ so it’s a clash of the two legal systems. Putin will be doing everything possible to compel Washington to acknowledge this case as legitimate. Truthfully, Putin has all the power to release Griner, even if she is convicted, but he will not until he gets maximum concessions out of the Biden Administration.”
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed last week that the Biden administration offered a “substantial proposal” for the return of the basketball player and fellow American Paul Whelan.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that Russia made a “bad faith” response to the U.S. government’s offer. She did not elaborate.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.
Paulina Dedaj is a Digital Reporter for Fox News and Fox Business. Follow Paulina Dedaj on Twitter at @PaulinaDedaj. If you’ve got a tip, you can email Paulina at Paulina.Dedaj@fox.com