After Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a camp in Russia, her US basketball team sent a message of solidarity.
The Phoenix Mercury showed their support ahead of their away game against the Connecticut Sun in the North American women's professional league WNBA by folding their arms with their opponents at the center circle in "42 seconds of silence for our sister" before the game.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on August 4 by a Russian court for illegal drug possession. The 31-year-old has been in custody since mid-February this year after so-called vape cartridges and hashish oil were found on her at Sheremetyevo Airport. It is said to have been 0.5 grams. This was ruled as illegal drug possession and attempted smuggling. The court saw no mitigating circumstances. Griner had pleaded guilty.
The Mercury team watched the verdict as they warmed up before the game against the Sun. "None of us actually wanted to play today," explained Griner's teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith. "How can you go into the game with a clear head? All of us cried before the game. But we have to keep trying to keep their spirits alive." The Mercury lost the game against the Sun 64:77.
The US government had accused Moscow of a politically motivated process from the start. Griner could be released if Moscow and Washington, despite their deep political differences, agree on an exchange of prisoners.