Family, this is your favorite queer radio personality Anna DeShawn here bringing you a special edition of Queer News; Bring Brittney Home, Part II. If you enjoy what you hear rate & review us inside your fav podcasting app, okay. Now for part two.
It’s been 55 days since Brittney Griner was detained by Russian Federal Customs Service. 55. We still have more questions than answers and it feels like it will be that way for a while. I have been following the story closely and want to give an update to share the things I’ve been hearing and reading. When I saw Brittney’s name making news again I thought there was no better time to drop Bring Brittney Home, Part II.
I don’t know about you but I am anxiously waiting for May 19th. The date Russian authorities have extended Brittney’s detainment. Tom Firestone, a former U.S. Justice Department legal resident advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said that these delays are standard in Russia and that she might be held without trial for up to a year, or even 18 months in extraordinary circumstances. So what happens on May 19th? Does she have a hearing? Will it be extended again? How long will she really be detained? I’m not the only one with lots of questions either. I know you have them and so do WNBA greats like Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley. A few weeks ago WNBA legend Lisa Leslie was a guest on the podcast “I AM Athlete” and she had this to say.
So, what is the right thing to do about it? The first that rings for me is Audre Lorde and all I hear is “Your silence will not protect you.” Then I ask myself, was she talking about an all-star athlete being detained in a war zone being charged with drug smuggling with fear of what the Kremlin might do if we sounded the alarm too loud. UGH, it’s maddening. The nuance of this situation is maddening and honestly based on what I’ve read of Lorde’s I’d venture to say yes. Yes she is talking about this too which once again leaves us with where Lisa Leslie left off. What is the right thing to do?
It’s being reported that she is sharing a cell with two other women detainees accused of narcotics offenses. It’s said her cellmates speak English and were helping her to communicate with staff at the pre-trial detention facility and to help obtain books. To date the only complaint from Griner has been that the beds are too small which I can only imagine as she is 6’9. It seems the Kremlin has yet to get involved which is truly a good thing. I mean they are busy committing war crimes and murdering Urkraineiens in an unprovoked war. A war that continues to rage with no end in sight which is just not helping. Now in a similar case cited by the Wall Street Journal, an American school teacher arrested on drug trafficking charges at an airport in Russia has been in jail since the summer of 2021 as the case continues to quote “be investigated”. In another, a young Israeli-American tourist accused of having a small amount of marijuana in her checked luggage was detained for nine months before being pardoned by Putin after negotiations for her release. Those negotiations ended with Putin receiving land in Israel. I don’t see that happening here in the US and please know BG is going up against a Russian court system with a 99.75% conviction rate. 99.75%. She’s facing 10 years for this hashish oil. Hashish oil that for all intensive purposes doesn’t contain a significant amount of THC at all by US standards but in Russia it’s a different game. Not to mention since she’s been playing over there for 7 years so if these vape cartridges are hers I can’t imagine she’d do this without thinking it was okay. Without thinking that she was protected by the Oligarch. Yes, the Oligarch child it’s a whole new word I’ve learned while reading and wanting to know more about Russia’s systems of power. Well the Oligarch are a collection of the richest Russian businessmen who welcomed post-Soviet privatization and Putin to become immensely wealthy. This wealth continues to accumulate by them supporting or turning their heads to Putin’s ways and this ensures their wealth continues to grow. A Russian Oligarch owns the women’s team in Russia and for some context his estimated net worth according to Forbes is $5.4 billion dollars. So it’s known that if you’re playing women’s basketball in Russia you are protected. You are treated like royalty which goes far beyond the pay they receive. I’ve included a story in the show notes if you want to read more about the Oligarach’s, their wealth, their power and how this war, the sanctions, etc. are impacting them.
Now, on Monday prior to the WNBA draft, Commissionior Cathy Engelbert, talked about Brittney right away in her opening remarks. Hear what she had to say.
This is the most we’ve heard from someone directly involved about how Brittney is doing. Also, on Monday during the draft coverage well respected sports journalist Holly Rowe reported that her lawyers are now able to visit her twice a week and that she can receive letters & correspondence from family. She went on to say that the league has decided not to suspend Brittney for a year which means she will receive her full salary. This also means they are making salary cap provisions or roster relief for the Phoenix Mercury to ensure they can still have a full full team this season. The league isn’t stopping there either. They plan on keeping BG front and center throughout the season starting with continuing her philanthropic project called BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive.
Back in 2016, BG noticed that homeless folks in Phoenix didn’t have any shoes so she started having extras in her car and she would give them out where she saw the need. That desire to help led the Mercury to establish a shoe drive & they partner with a local non-profit called the Phoenix Rescue Mission. BG would go around in the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s mobile “Hope Coach” vehicle and deliver the shoes personally to the people in need. To date they’ve helped nearly 2,000 homeless folks in Phoenix and this year will no doubt be the biggest yet because the entire league is participating. Yes, that’s rite all 12 WNBA markets are making a commitment to give towards a cause that BG holds really close to her heart. So if you’re in Phoenix the first opportunity to donate will be Thursday, April 28th at the team’s home preseason game against the Seattle Storm. For those of us in other places they are encouraging us to make cash donations directly to the mission and write “BG” in the comments to help them track the impact. The first link in the show notes will take you to where you can donate.
To answer Lisa Leslie’s question about what is the right thing to do. What the league is doing feels right. It feels like it’s in alignment with what BG would want in this moment. For me as a journalist, it’s important that we continue to keep Brittney in the news cycle to an extent because we cannot allow her to be lost in the midst of everything else happening with this war. She too is important. She too deserves our time.
I want to close the podcast with a clip of Nneka Ogwumike, President of the WNBA Players Association, who yesterday sat down with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. For whom y’all already know is my absolute favorite of all time & I could go on and on but I’m going to stay focused on the story. Robin asked if she thought this was a gender issue if she felt like this would have played out differently if Brittney played in the NBA. I want to leave us with this clip because the inequities facing women’s sports in this country is deplorable and if anything good can come out of this terrifying and awful situation it would be seeing significant changes in the financial support provided to women’s basketball and women’s sports in general here in the US. Till tomorrow family, peace.