I came across this tweet from an ESPN twitter account quoting WNBA basketball star Nneka Ogwumike (you win scrabble if you get that word) the other day after Griner pled guilty to a crime in Russia. It calls Griner a hero, and says we need to bring her back to the USA.
First some backstory here. Griner was arrested in Russia after landing at the airport and trying to bring hashish oil (aka cannabis) through security. This was around 17 February. Cannabis, unlike in the USA, is illegal in Russia. She was detained, and from there held under arrest until her trial was supposed to begin July 7th, but she pled guilty instead. Her trial now is in the “penalty phase” think death penalty vs life in prison as far as the USA system is concerned. Very likely she will garner a 10-year prison sentence in Russia.
When a young Johnnie Does was growing up, he learned right from wrong, he also learned to be accountable for his actions. When I made a mistake, I too pled guilty in a court of law. My point? I was not a hero that day, nor am I a hero now. I took responsibility, and won’t go down that road again, and my crime was far more political than Griner’s.
So, what makes her a hero?
Well just her celebrity status. She is a WBA star who plays in Russia to earn extra money. The WNBA doesn’t pay much because… well no one cares. As Troll joked to me “the July 4th hot dog eating contest got more rating on TV than the WNBA all-star game.” So, the joke from Troll was “people would rather watch men shove a hotdog in their throat, versus women who refuse to shove a hot dog down their throat.” Ironic! Just think about it.
(Oh, Johnnie Does was Really Right even while being sarcastic, see note on TV ratings at conclusion of this post.)
I want to come off somewhat empathetic here as I have no idea what Griner is facing in what is likely deplorable conditions. Her “wife” has spoken out about how she is terrified and thinks she may spend the rest of her life in jail. However, Griner should have known better.
She has spent enough time in Russia to know hashish oil is illegal in Russia, she is also very lucky she wasn’t charged as a trafficker (aka drug dealer) as the penalty would be far harsher. Griner also needs to get with the real world. A war was going down between Russia and Ukraine, with the US essentially playing as Ukraine’s proxy. This likely didn’t make Russia happy, and likely made any US citizen or US/Russia dual citizen a bigger target. The world essentially cutting off Russia’s economy likely didn’t help with any leniency either. She is now a pawn in a nasty geo-political war. It also doesn’t help that her supporters are building her into a large celebrity. Russia is using her as a trade chip, but we are now going to have to pay a premium in order to get her back. To make my point, Russia seems to want convicted arms dealer Vicktor Bout in return, think of this as trading our queen (Bout) for their pawn (Griner). One plays basketball, the other is an arms dealer and likely terrorist financier.
Griner’s supporters have made her out to be something she is not, so the chances of securing her early return are likely moot. The US State Department calling her “wrongfully detained” also isn’t smart. This is akin to annoying the prosecutor’s office. This type of saber-rattling works in US politics, not foreign relations. Also why are we paying so much attention to Griner when there are likely hundreds of other Americans detained abroad? Fake celebrity status.
Griner knew Russian law, she knew she shouldn’t have had the oil. She has tried to say she didn’t know it was against the law, but this ain’t the USA we are talking about; no politician to pay your bail, no soft on crime DA to let you leave without charges. Griner and her supporters also need to have some self-awareness. Griner and her group may think the USA has a horrific human rights record, be racist, transphobic, and homophobic, but she is witnessing first-hand what it’s like to be in a country that is quite literally against that lifestyle. Griner is black, a woman, and in a same sex marriage. Like it or not, that’s 3 strikes in that part of the world.
Maybe the US isn’t all that bad?
I hope Griner gets out and learns a valuable lesson. I hope all the detained Americans are released, but like or system or not, we are more than fair criminally to anyone detained here.
Oh, may I offer a suggestion? Since Trump was so “connected to Russia” maybe Biden should send the Donald to negotiate with Putin? Just a thought but maybe rather than spit fire at Trump, put him to use as a past president?
Editor’s Note: On July 4, 2022, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest had 1.03 million viewers on ESPN and the WNBA All-Star Game broadcast July 10, 2022 on ABC had 734,000 viewers. The hotdog contest was tape delayed due to Covid rules and the basketball game–amid Brittany mania–was live and experienced a 53 percent increase in viewership over 2021.