The Phoenix Mercury released a statement after Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession and smuggling and sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court on Thursday morning.
“While we knew it was never the legal process that was going to bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG,” the statement read.
“We remain heartbroken for her, as we have every day for nearly six months.”
Griner, an eight-time WNBA All-Star, champion (2014) and two-time league scoring leader in her nine years with the Mercury, was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow in February, intending to play for Russian women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
The Russian Federal Customs Service said its officials found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in Griner’s luggage, and a criminal case was opened into her transportation of those drugs.
Griner’s sentence, which also included a fine of 1 million rubles ($16,400), was delivered by judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimiki city court.
“I never meant to hurt anybody,” Griner said what was described to be an emotional speech before her verdict was delivered. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here. “I made an honest mistake and I hope in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”
Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykin, said in a written statement they will appeal the decision. They have 10 days to do so.
President Joe Biden and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, along with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, released statements on Griner’s sentence.
BREAKING: Pres. Biden on Brittney Griner's sentence in Russian drug trial: "Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates." https://t.co/sloL1ViXWs pic.twitter.com/hCZ6eoa83N— ABC News (@ABC) August 4, 2022
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement regarding Brittney Griner: pic.twitter.com/9z4IanOOHg— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) August 4, 2022
We hope you get home soon, BG.