Social Question

jca2's avatar

Do you feel bad for Brittney Griner?

Asked by jca2 (13654points) 4 days ago

I am trying to decide (by just guessing) whether she was just stupid, by violating the laws of another country, or whether she was entitled, by thinking that the laws for the average citizen did not apply to her. Now she is facing a 9 year sentence in a Russian prison, which will probably make American prisons look like country clubs.

Also, she is a political pawn which probably won’t work in her favor. She made herself an easy target by violating the law in Russia.

I am not usually feeling bad for criminals, but in this case, I feel like she did something really stupid and now is probably very sorry.

What do you think?

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55 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

I was talking about this with my daughter last night. We both agree – Griner was stupid and she should have known better, especially since she had been toi RUssia before.

I seriously doubt she will spend 9 years in prison, but that’s another issue.

This was self-inflicted stupidity. And too bad for her she timed it to hit the Ukraine war.

RocketGuy's avatar

Yep: entitled, to think that she could get away with bringing a possibly prohibited substance to a foreign country. Now a political pawn. But I heard her jailors were basketball fans, so will treat her the best they can.

janbb's avatar

I feel very badly for her. Yes, she did something stupid but now she is a political pawn and must be very scared. I think the jail sentence was probably to up the ante and eventually a trade will take place but it is a lousy situation.

Smashley's avatar

I feel bad for anyone in such circumstances. To a point.

Just as Clerks taught us, you have to know who you work for. Sure there were thousands of innocents in the Death Star, but they were working for the evil galactic empire and it’s rulers, lords of the dark side. What did they expect, a generous 401k and cantina discounts?

Griner assumed she could go into the territory of a country that has been internationally aggressive and lawless for years: a country where political dissidents and opposition candidates are jailed and journalists are murdered, right on the eve of it attacking a sovereign nation. She figured she could just play her basketball and ignore the fucked up situation all around her. Guess not.

I feel bad, but not so bad I need her to get out at any cost.

chyna's avatar

I do feel sorry for her. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it was entitlement, maybe she thought it was okay since a doctor prescribed it. But to be in a foreign country, in their jail and not speak the language has to be frightening.
And I do think she is being used as a pawn.

Irukandji's avatar

She brought something that had been medically prescribed to her to another country (a country she only goes to in order to continue making a living during the off season). If she had been arrested for bringing Sudafed into Japan or Benadryl into Zambia—both of which are banned in those countries—this wouldn’t even be a discussion. Everyone would agree that it’s crazy. The fact that it’s technically a crime wouldn’t even enter into it. The only reason most people are treating this differently is because it’s marijuana, which has been the target of vilification for decades (to the point that even people who support legalization are judging her).

Smashley's avatar

@Smashley – I’d be frightened just going to a country without the protections of the rule of law.

@Irukandji – it’s not about the drug, it’s about Russia being a place where the law doesn’t matter, and power rules everything.

chyna's avatar

Two places to NEVER visit:
1. Russia
2. North Korea
Remember the college student Otto Warmbier that tore a poster off a wall in North Korea? He was jailed and then sent home in a coma where he eventually died. Over a poster!

Irukandji's avatar

@Smashley As opposed to the US, where everything is peachy keen for lesbians with dark skin? Yes, some countries are worse than others, and Russia is near the top of the bad list. But if your standard is “know who you work for,” then we’re all compromised in one way or another.

In any case, your opinion is an outlier that I wasn’t even responding to (thus why it wasn’t addressed to you). I was commenting on the prevailing opinion I’ve seen among those who don’t feel sympathy for Griner, which is largely about the drug itself.

Smashley's avatar

@Irukandji – yes, as opposed to the US where the rule of law still applies, though admittedly less for celebs. Your opinions: that this is about the vilification of cannabis in the US, or that a person making 500k a year needs to go to Russia “to make a living”, are the real outliers.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I do a bit, very unfortunate.

@Irukandji She had a legal US prescription? That should make a difference, I’d think.

jca2's avatar

@KNOWITALL: I don’t think it makes a difference in Russia, apparently.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Yes, as everbody makes mistakes.

However another thing to consider is that she is a Great Basketball Player, perhaps too good and since Russians are Basketball Fans one way to secure an international competition is to jail the U.S. star player.

JLeslie's avatar

My first reaction was if she had weed on her she is crazy and stupid. I cannot imagine taking the risk of having street drugs on my person or using them in any way in a country like Russia, or anywhere in Asia, or South America. Who the hell wants to risk going to jail in any of those countries? Just being in Russia sounds risky, especially while they are at war and America is helping their enemy. What the hell?! Americans should have been leaving as soon as Russia was lining up their military on the border.

It reminded me of Lisa Ling’s sister winding up in jail in North Korea, because she stepped over the border. I had zero sympathy for her, because I really believed she thought it would be cool to be able to say she was on NK land.

Brittney, I don’t think she necessarily felt it would be cool to get away with it, I think she just took an unbelievably stupid risk.

I have a friend who doesn’t believe Brittney had any drugs and Russia made it up to use her as a pawn.

I feel bad she is used as a pawn, but she should be grateful America will trade for her. Who is she in terms of importance to America? She is a citizen, so we want to protect her, but Russia will get back someone who really should be in jail.

I guess I feel a little bad for her, if she was my daughter I would want her home. I am also a little annoyed with her. She was not doing important business for the US, she was just playing basketball. People say she needed the money and the women’s players don’t make as much as the men, but really how little does she make? I bet it isn’t so bad that you go play in an enemy state that is basically led by a dictator who has no respect for human rights.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t have enough evidence to know what actually happened, but I do have enough evidence that the Russians tend to be corrupt and entirely willing to unreasonably target someone for political reasons.

It sounds like even the official story is possession of less than an ounce of hashish oil. I don’t have much respect for any law that can sentence someone to 9 years in prison for that.

IF she really was stupid enough to pack that for an air trip to Russia, even then sure I’d feel sorry for her, even though that would have been an extremely foolish thing to do.

It’s so petty though, that I’d rather see all the people who think that punishment is appropriate, imprisoned until they change their minds.

HP's avatar

Griner is simply the classic lesson on youth and judgement. There’s a reason the military services recruit in the high schools.

RocketGuy's avatar

@JLeslie – By playing in Russia, she might have been making 6–7x what she was making in the US: https://katiecouric.com/news/how-the-gender-pay-gap-led-brittney-griner-to-a-russian-prison/
Wouldn’t you go work in Russia for a 600% raise?

JLeslie's avatar

@RocketGuy No way. One of my rules when my husband was being moved around a lot is I would not live in a place that I felt unsafe all of the time. When he lived in Bogata I went for one long weekend out of the 10 months he was there. He would come home once every 4–5 weeks. He had an armed driver, the company took out kidnapping insurance on him, it was taken very seriously. He also is Mexican, so not obviously American.

When my mom and dad were first married my mom told my dad she would not move to a state (in our own country) that was very racist or that she might feel unsafe. This was back in the 60’s.

During Trump my dad researched where I could move to if we decided it became dangerous to live in America.

We take danger to our lives and what country we are in pretty seriously in my family. Still, anything could happen, but we try to not push our luck too much.

HP's avatar

Clearly, Griner had no idea of the risks facing her. Young and naive in Russia. I’m sure she was apprised by many that “things are different, stay on your toes.” But the Russians needed a stooge, and she made it easy for them. I mean it really is a truly transparent and rather blatant miscarriage of justice. But she’s a celebrity hostage and that’s that.

JLeslie's avatar

From what I read, her dad was a cop for a while. I would think she was warned plenty not to screw around.

HP's avatar

Water off a duck’s back. What kid do you know who religiously heeds the advice of his or her parents? I think it unlikely that she will be there for long. The one thing the Russians will most certainly avoid is the fate doled the typical Russian convict, whereby a prison sentence is in fact a sentence to such diseases as virulent antibiotic resistant tuberculosis. Russian prisons are notorious petrie dishes—breeding grounds crammed with malnourished weakened immune systems.

Nomore_Tantrums's avatar

I have no sympathy for any American who violated the laws of another country. I have the same view of her, as I did for actor Stacey Keach when he was imprisoned in the UK a number of years ago for possession of cocaine. Don’t take that stuff into a foreign country. Although his offence was more serious than hers, same principle.

HP's avatar

A British prison term is a luxury cruise compared to time in a Russian gulag. Russian gangsters laugh at Western penal systems.

Nomore_Tantrums's avatar

I realize that. My point was don’t go anywhere over seas and think you can get by with breaking the law. Just don’t do it. Russia, China, UK, any where.

gorillapaws's avatar

I don’t know the facts. As far as I can tell there are a few possibilities:
1. They planted it on her for political reasons. She confessed because of the Russian judicial system not out of guilt.

2. It was an honest mistake and she accidentally brought it into Russia. I feel much less sympathy here, but still some.

3. She thought her celebrity status made her above the law in Russia and bringing the oil was a willful act, disregarding the laws of the country she was in. In this scenario, I’m with @JLeslie and have a hard time mustering much sympathy. In some respects such an action may lead to securing the freedom of a person who did very bad things and ought to be imprisoned.

As a general aside: Female athletes ought to be compensated commensurate with their male counterparts.

JLeslie's avatar

@HP She is old enough not to be ignoring rational advice from parents and other adults, she’s not a teenager. Isn’t she in her 30’s? Most people don’t want to wind up in jail, especially not in a foreign jail.

janbb's avatar

None of us really know why she had the canabis so I find it silly to be making judgments about what she should or shouldn’t have known or done. I feel nothing but sympathy for her as a pawn in the game.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb Do you think she actually broke the law? Or, that the oil was planted on her?

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie What is the point of speculating when none of us know what happened?

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb Would it matter to you if she did actually break the law and she knew it was against the law? Or, no matter what, you just feel she’s a pawn and don’t care what she did? Even in America there are drug laws, it’s not like a totally foreign concept like chewing gum in Singapore.

We know we are speculating. There is no way to know what actually happened. It’s Russia.

RocketGuy's avatar

I thought she said she had a prescription for medical MJ. That would mean she brought it herself. Should not have assumed a medical exemption would work there.

chyna's avatar

No one knows for sure what has really happened. Maybe she took it willingly, maybe she was set up and forced to say she brought it, or dozens of other scenarios. Until she gets back to the US, I will hope for the best for her.
And as far as her being a celebrity or famous, I had never heard of her before this and I bet that most people that don’t follow women’s basketball had never heard of her either.

canidmajor's avatar

And maybe she figured it was okay because, according to NPR, she had a doctor’s note for the use of cannabis for pain.
https://www.npr.org/2022/07/15/1111731127/brittney-griner-cannabis-russia-trial

It is very effective against certain kinds of pain, without the side effects that many painkillers have. To assume that she was stupid or ignorant is, in itself, stupid and ignorant.

ETA, to actually answer your question, yes, I feel bad for her. This seems to be more of a political ploy on the part of the Russians than any actual outrage because of a tiny amount of
cannabis, an opportunistic event.

JLeslie's avatar

I have to second what @chyna said about Brittney probably not being very well known outside of people who follow women’s basketball. I had never heard of her before.

canidmajor's avatar

It really doesn’t matter that much if people who don’t follow sports didn’t know her, the WNBA has a publicity machine that has made sure that we all know who she is now, making her an excellent subject for whatever the Russian agenda is.

jca2's avatar

Apparently she assumed, or one of her handlers didn’t tell her, that having a doctor’s note or prescription for marijuana in Russia doesn’t have the same weight as a doctor’s note/prescription does in the US.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t even think you can cross state lines with Marijuana. Maybe CBD oil is legal in all 50 states? I know MJ you smoke is not legal in all 50 states.

Irukandji's avatar

@Smashley Many of my opinions are outliers. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I find it strange that you took so much offense at being told you have a different perspective than the one I was criticizing. In any case, you seem to have misunderstood what I said. For one, I didn’t say that this whole situation is about the vilification of cannabis in the US. I said that most (not all) of the unsympathetic opinions regarding Griner’s case that I have personally encountered are colored by an underlying negative view about marijuana itself.

For another, I didn’t say that Griner needs to go to Russia. I noted that she does go there in order to continue making a living during the off season. Furthermore, Griner does not make $500,000 per year during the regular season. That is the WNBA salary cap, not her actual salary. She has a three year contract for $664,544, and her salary for the 2021–2022 season was $221,450.

That’s a lot of money, but much less than a comparable player in the NBA. The comparison I’ve seen is Rudy Gobert, who plays the same position for the Utah Jazz and has been in the league for a similar length of time with similar statistical results (though a direct comparison is difficult here). He makes over $431,000 per game during the regular season. And basketball is not a 40 year career. The average NBA career lasts 4½ years, and the average WNBA career lasts 3½ years (with fewer opportunities for WNBA players afterwards).

There’s a lot to criticize about the American system of economics in general and the salaries of sports stars in specific. But I can’t really blame Griner for making her decisions based on the economic realities she faces rather than some sort of ideal alternative system.

As for the US and the rule of law: as I already said, there’s no question that some countries are worse than others. And while you focus on Griner’s celebrity status, there’s also the fact that she is black and a lesbian. It’s possible that is part of why she was targeted in Russia, but it’s also something that has surely gotten her targeted in the US as well. When it comes to “knowing who we work for” (not that Griner works for the US or Russia, she only operates within them), we’re talking more of a difference in degree than a difference in kind.

HP's avatar

Very well put.

JLeslie's avatar

@ALL Why does it matter what she makes compared to a man in her profession regarding going to Russia to earn more money? If you were offered a lot of money right now to do your job in Russia, would you go? Some of you might say yes, but I’m guessing most of you would say no.

If both leagues make the same huge profits, then the women should fight for equal pay. From what I understand they are fighting. I don’t know the economics of the basketball leagues. I don’t know how big the profits are men vs. women’s league.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie Sports careers have an expiry date. If she has to stop working at 38, she needs to have a bunch of lolly socked away. There is little to no guarantee that she is qualified for anything else. That’s only one aspect.

HP's avatar

That’s actually what the women are up against. The WNBA just plain cannot generate the revenue common to their male counterparts. It’s just that simple. The gals’ league is barely past the stage the men held in sports when I was a little boy. I can remember when I was in high school, and both professional football and basketball were in their beginning days of national televising. Baseball had been there and was well established on television. But I can remember a particular season, pulling for the Baltimore Colts and their fantastic team quarterbacked by the legendary Johnny Unitas. I remember watching those guys in a particular game waged in the midst of what looked like a blizzard on the screen. You could barely make out the figures through the swirling snow and the steam from the breath of the players puffing like a convention of steam locomotives. It was in many ways glorious, because I lived in the Midwest, and understood that the ground itself was hard as a brick, and violent contact with that ground no trivial consideration. Anyway, I remember, even as a kid, being staggered when discovering that even the stars of my hero team had normal square jobs to support themselves. I couldn’t believe it. The girls will get there. The pioneers ALWAYS suffer.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor I understand that, but that doesn’t really address what I talked about in my statement.

Plenty of people have tough jobs that don’t pay well and might be physically too hard to do until retirement. Some choose to go to harsher climates to get more pay. Some go to foreign countries. Most people don’t do either of those things. She was making decent money. In ten years she can do some other sort of work if she doesn’t save and chooses to spend all her $200k a year (if that amount is accurate). Maybe that’s not a big income to you, but it is to me. I know the men make much more, but as @HP reinforced for me, the women’s league doesn’t generate as much profit.

My husband and I weren’t making close to $200k a year in our early thirties. Making that much very young is a huge advantage compared to the average American. She doesn’t live in extremely expensive cities like San Fran or NYC.

I don’t fault her for pursuing more income or even wanting to travel and experience other places in the world. Just sounds like she wasn’t worried enough about what could go wrong. I would think the athletes who travel to other countries are told to not assume anything about laws and to be cautious.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know if you realize it but it sounds like you are blaming the victim here. I saw a piece on CNN that was an interview with someone who had been in a Russian jail and he said that no minor drug offenders would get a 9 year sentence.

canidmajor's avatar

@janbb There’s a lot of that in this thread.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I do not think her sentence should be 9 years. I never said that.

If she committed the crime, then what? Are you saying she just should be given a pass and sent back to the US. I would have preferred that had happened.

This is not a woman in a short skirt who was raped. This is a woman with an ilegal drug.

HP's avatar

There is no question that she is being exploited for her celebrity value. But welcome to progress. Back in the days of the Soviet Union, the Russians would have studiously avoided pinning the tail on a black celebrity, and stuck to the “atypical” American “star.”

chyna's avatar

@JLeslie What should her sentence be?

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna Like I said, I prefer a slap on the wrist and sent back to America. That’s what I would want. But it’s Russia!

chyna's avatar

Yeah they have to go overboard to prove how badass they are.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna When a coworker of a friend was an expat in Singapore his teenage son was caught with drugs. Singapore gave them 24 hours to get the kid out of the country. The parents put the kid on a plane to his grandparents in the US (ticket must have been a small fortune).

My guess is he was incredibly thankful to not be jailed or caned in Singapore and allowed to leave. The entire family must have been nervous wrecks. Unless, that kid is a horrible person and addict, I’m thinking the punishment of putting his family through that was enough to never again do anything so stupid. He was a minor though, high school, young, stupid. I’m glad he didn’t get jailed in Singapore.

30 years old I have less sympathy for.

HP's avatar

Notice that it is the parents who were punished.

JLeslie's avatar

@HP You mean my story? The parents were probably incredibly grateful to the Singaporean government to not press charges, and the father was allowed to stay and finish his work.

hat's avatar

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this what we’re talking about here?

- Cannabis prohibition has resulted in many millions of arrests, imprisoning, and destruction of generations of people in the US.
– While there have been recent efforts to decriminalize it, it’s still illegal, which is still resulting in arrests.
– People are still being sentenced to absurd sentences for possession.
– Even having a medical card in a legal state doesn’t protect you from arrest if you travel out of state with the cannabis.

With this in mind, rather than people being outraged at the injustice occurring in their own house, they suddenly have found a voice against injustice done by people elsewhere. That righteous anger just happens to be at an official US enemy, and has coincidentally corresponded with corporate media campaign to paint the Griner case as an extreme outlier.

Do I feel bad for Griner? Of course. Just like I feel bad for everyone in this country that has had their lives destroyed by decades of racist and unjust anti-drug laws and crime bills written by certain high-profile US politicians. If I am to feel bad for Griner, I need to feel at least as bad for people whose lives were destroyed with my help (taxes, votes, etc).

Can we express outrage at injustice done by an entity that is beyond our control? Sure. But we’d better make sure that we’re far more outraged at injustice done in our name and with our help.

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