Brittney Griner: The athlete needed to be more attentive

Star WNBA player Brittney Griner caused controversy after being imprisoned in Russia for illegal drug smuggling. She was detained Feb. 18, just one week before Russia invaded Ukraine and strained U.S. relations, for the possession of marijuana, legal in the United States but illegal in Russia. 

However, do we agree she needs to be released from Russian custody, or is the nine-year sentence perfectly just?

One of the best players in the WNBA, Griner was found with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her packed luggage. The use of marijuana in oils, creams and balms without the high-inducing THC chemical has been shown to alleviate pain and provide relief from muscle soreness in athletes.  

However, there is a time and place for everything. There are many reasons it is illegal in Russia. Respecting other countries and the laws they have in place is important as an American citizen.

There is value in claiming your citizenship, but it’s important to portray your country in the best manner possible when traveling abroad. We must represent our nation in a way that would encourage patriotism.

While pleading guilty, she said she packed it while in a hurry. Even a professional basketball player should be able to read the very bold print of check-in security while traveling like normal people. I can’t think of one time that I’ve checked in to a flight without having to agree to the terms prohibiting lithium batteries, drugs and liquid substances.

It is frustrating to think she must remain in a country that is not her own, but this is an issue regarding Russian territory. Russia does have jurisdiction. 

Changing the Russian court’s decision depends on several factors. First, it is hard to negotiate her sentence because of the increasing tensions between the United States and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Second, Griner spent well over six years playing club basketball in Russia during the off-season of U.S. basketball. It is hard to believe she was unaware of the laws.

Many celebrities have stated their opinions on social media, one of the most recent being Hall of Fame NBA player Dennis Rodman. It is no surprise that Rodman, who had a great career, wants to get involved with this high-profile case as he has done at other times. However, pushing the tensions between the United States and Russia at such a vulnerable time can cause more harm than good.

I see the issue in black and white. The Russian government showed Griner no mercy after she was found with an illegal substance. She was put in prison and will now serve the time necessary.

Any other American citizen who went to Russia and was caught with illegal drugs in their luggage would be found guilty and have to do time.  She must do the same.

Popa is an opinion writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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