Statements of solidarity and support for WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner poured in on her birthday Tuesday, which was also the 243rd day Griner spent in Russian custody after being convicted of possession of cannabis despite having a medical marijuana card that allowed her legal access in the United States.
Stephen Curry, star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, used his team’s championship ring ceremony on the NBA’s opening night to renew the media’s focus on Griner’s case following her nine-year sentence.
“We want to continue to use our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community,” Curry said at the Chase Center in San Francisco. “Brittney Griner’s birthday is today. She’s 32 years old. We want to continue to let her name be known (…) It’s been 243 days since she’s been wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon.”
And with those words expressed in similar fashion among a host of celebrities and noted journalists, some Twitter users only zeroed in on the word “wrongfully.” It trended into Wednesday morning.
RELATED STORY: Brittney Griner found guilty on drug possession charges, sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 19, 2022
One Twitter user suggested Griner should have known better and should be forced to watch National Geographic’s “Locked Up Abroad” reruns. Another said those deeming Griner’s imprisonment wrongful need to “pull your head out of your (a–es) and take a big breathe of reality.”
Yet and still, another social media user tweeted: “Quit giving a criminal attention. She doesn’t deserve it.”
It’s hard to imagine that the same lack of empathy and simple compassion would be applied if Griner were white and straight.
Dani Gilbert, a Rosenwald fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy and International Security at Dartmouth College’s John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, told Business Insider that “how someone came to be in need of assistance affects whether or not the public thinks that person should receive it.” And race is often a huge factor in determining who is deserving of American sympathies, Gilbert added.
“A white girl or a white woman who is taken captive or arrested or something like that elicits tons of sympathy from the American public in a way that women and girls of color do not,” she explained.
As an example, late PBS anchor Gwen Ifill coined the phrase “missing white woman syndrome.”
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GIlbert said Griner’s race “could be a huge part of the lack of attention to her case.
“And then there are other demographic characteristics, including the fact that she is openly gay, that she is gender nonconforming, not traditionally feminine — all of these work against public sympathy for someone in her position,” Gilbert told Business Insider.
But as is often the case when mainstream media is more inclined to overlook our stories, Black men and women, both little-known and influential, have refused to let Griner’s story be ignored.
Journalist Angela Rye asked her followers to keep supporting Griner, who is set for an appeal hearing on Tuesday.
We had @angela_rye hop on to break down the latest efforts to keep Brittney Griner connected to the people who love her, on her Birthday. pic.twitter.com/6aYkc84PdN
— Jalen & Jacoby (@JalenandJacoby) October 18, 2022
Voice actor Asante Barbarin tweeted: “I’ve been very outspoken about how I feel about America’s response to @brittneygriner being wrongfully imprisoned and essentially used as leverage in Putin’s nuclear midlife crisis. (1/?)
I was actually curious enough to look up when her birthday was and to my dismay i find out that her birthday is today, the same as my mine. It’s not fair that I get to spend my birthday surrounded by loved ones, while @brittneygriner isn’t free. The silence on this speaks volumes”
Today is Brittney Griner’s birthday. She should be celebrating with her friends and family, but she has been wrongfully detained for the past 8 months. It’s time to bring her home. #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/Ocmx5KPof6
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) October 18, 2022
Following the United States’ offer of a prisoner swap for Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine convicted in Moscow of espionage, Russia has been slow to counter, CNN reported. The offer proposed by the President Joe Biden’s administration, according to CNN, would mean trading Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer held in a penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, for Griner and Whelan.
“We have worked hard to try to demonstrate the sorts of things that could well be the basis for resolving this and each time we have articulated that it’s been met not with a serious counteroffer,” an unnamed official told the news network.
Cherelle Griner spoke with @angela_rye about the wrongful detainment of her wife, Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February 17. pic.twitter.com/tWym2nEYS1
— ESPN (@espn) May 26, 2022
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RELATED STORY: ‘Unprecedentedly harsh’: Brittney Griner seeks appeal while prisoner swap discussed
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