Russian Jail Anyone?
American Basketball Player Brittney Griner
Fears for her Future.
Last February Griner was arrested after landing at a Moscow airport where a small amount of cannabis was found in her luggage. She was going to Russia for some volunteer work in connection with her career as an athlete.
Cannabis continues to be illegal in Russia despite the more liberal approach of many other countries, including the US where it is legal in 39 different states. In August, she was given a nine year sentence. Apparently, only 0.25% of defendants are ever acquitted in Russian courts. So being convicted after being charged is pretty automatic, in their justice system.
She states she uses cannabis for medical reasons and inadvertently packed it for her Russia trip, where she knew it was illegal. Pres. Biden has been negotiating for her release, and has offered some kind of prisoner swap.
Now, according to her lawyer, she is “increasingly anxious” about her prospects of release from her 9 year sentence, according to The New York Times. She is losing confidence that Biden will make a deal with the Russians to secure her release.
Some commentators have pointed out the irony of Griner’s previous criticism of the American justice system, in light of her current incarceration. In the past she kneeled for the national anthem, and then later refused to come out of the locker room until after the anthem was over. Some of these critics have pointed out that you won't find people in our prisons serving 9 year sentences for marijuana possession.
Athletes that take these positions, including Griner, state that they do not disrespect the country, in fact they love our country but feel that justice is not being applied equally to all racial groups. Their kneeling or staying off the court until the anthem is over, they say, is intended to bring attention to this racial inequity.
Leaving aside the legitimacy of their claims there may be some points we can all agree on.
The worst treatment any defendant receives in America is still better than the best treatment any defendant receives in Russia. And many countries are worse than Russia.
Privilege exists in America and Pres. Biden negotiating for Griner's release is typical of the privilege routinely extended to woke celebrities and famous athletes. When my non athlete, white son was rotting away in a Mexican jail, the president didn't negotiate for his release.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if Griner were released and came back to our country, with a new, more realistic outlook, and was willing to place her hand on her heart for the national anthem?
We could move towards unity if Griner and others that share her point of view, could understand that refusing to participate in the anthem will always be seen as disrespecting America, (regardless of their intentions), and hence is a very poor way of starting a conversation about this topic.
At the same time the rest of us could acknowledge that there is still progress to be made on our quest to "form a more perfect Union".
We can love America, the greatest country on this planet, and still work together to make America even better.
Those are my thoughts and in the interim, let's remember Brittney Griner in our prayers.
Take care and BE HEALTHY!
PS: Last minute update. Griner's appeal of her 9 year sentence was just turned down by the Russian appeals court.
PPS: Even before publishing this article I am getting push back on my statement that "the rest of us could acknowledge that there is still progress to be made". For all you detractors, state your objection in the comments below, and I will be glad to answer you.
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