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Brittney Griner has been labeled by the left and the right as a political prisoner. Americans have, since her arrest, treated her case with undue deference, almost certainly because of her celebrity status.
There are other Americans held in Russian jail cells who are mostly unknown to Americans. But because Griner is an American athlete and gay, she has been treated with celebrity adulation. Megan Rapinoe paid tribute to her at Rapinoe’s recent Medal of Freedom ceremony. She wore on her cream blazer the initials ‘BG’ and a bunch of flowers embroidered on Rapinoe’s lapel. That was on the same day that Griner pled guilty to the charges against her.
Notwithstanding Griner’s admission of guilt, Rapinoe and others have flooded social media with “Free Brittney” pleas, claiming she is a political prisoner. In one respect, Griner’s champions are right – she is a political prisoner now.
Griner was arrested on February 17 while attempting to bring an illegal drug into Russia. There is no dispute of that fact. Griner admitted that she, in fact, brought the drug into Russia and she admitted that fact in court. However, Griner claimed it was a “mistake”, an error on her part. Nonetheless, she broke the law of a foreign country, admitted that she did so, and is now facing the consequences: a nine-year prison sentence.
Her crime may seem trivial to Americans, but the laws of other countries are their laws, not ours. Here is a brief timeline:
On January 23, the State Department issued a travel advisory that Americans should not travel to Russia.
On January 29, Griner left Russia after playing her last game there.
On February 17, Griner returned to Russia and was arrested for carrying hashish cartridges.
As a person traveling frequently to the same foreign country, it is incumbent to know the laws of that country and to not break them.
Since Griner’s arrest and before her sentencing, Trevor Reed, a decorated Marine, and an arguably wrongfully imprisoned American was released in exchange for a Russian prisoner. Reed spent 1000 days in jail before the exchange. Just days ago, Biden’s administration has offered a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence, in exchange for Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan.
On Thursday, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison. But Griner won’t serve nine years. Part of her lengthy sentence is to increase her value when Russia offers her in exchange for Russian(s) in US custody. At this point, Griner isn’t just an American who broke Russian laws (and frankly deserves to be punished) she has become a pawn on a political chessboard.
Eventually, she will be exchanged but her value in whatever exchange happens was increased on Thursday. Make no mistake, she was sentenced to multiple years in a Russian prison to increase her value, nothing more.
Two things can be true at the same time. Griner broke the law and pled guilty. Griner is also a “political prisoner” because she now has increased value to Russia as a piece of a geopolitical chessboard worthy of exchanging for something more valuable. Biden will bend and an actual Russian criminal will be freed so Brittney Griner can come home and complain about America.