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U.S. Basketball Player Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Russian Drug Charges

During the second hearing of her trial, Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges placed on her, but denied having intentionally broken the law. This comes only a few days after Griner’s plea to President Joe Biden to secure her release.  

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said during her court hearing.

Griner was initially detained in February after landing in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport with vape cartridges carrying less than a gram of hashish oil. Griner has been kept in custody since landing in the country. Griner has been detained in a Russian prison for over four months now and with pleading guilty, now faces up to 10 years in prison.

Various athletes and U.S public officials have actively called for her release.

Others fear that her detainment could be used for leverage by Russia to release a high-profile Russian citizen. Additional concerns point to Griner detainment as a means of preventing the United States’ support of Ukraine during Russia’s invasion of the eastern European nation.

Russian officials have stated that Griner’s detainment is not politically charged.

And while the U.S. government officially classified Griner’s detainment as wrongful, it leaves out the reasons why she was in Russia in the first place. Griner annually plays basketball in Russia during her team’s offseason as a means to supplement her salary as a professional U.S. player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Her base salary is $227,900 per year and her salary in Russia is $1 million per year.

This brings up conversations on equitable compensation for WNBA players and the need to travel overseas in order to make the equity happen. 

Griner’s next hearing takes place on July 14, 2022.

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