WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Britney Greiner learned of her fate in a Russian court on Thursday, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges in June.
President Biden responded after the news, saying the government would “follow all possible avenues” in order to bring Grenier back to the United States.
“Today, US citizen Britney Greiner received a prison sentence and this is another reminder of what the world already knows: Russia is unjustly holding Britney. It is unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with his wife, whom she loves. My friends and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and seek every avenue possible to get Britney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” Biden said.
Griner’s existence in Russia was primarily monetary.
Greiner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, is similar to many WNBA players in that she chooses to play overseas during her sabbatical in order to supplement her paycheck.
In 2020, Griner signed a three-year, $664,544 contract extension with Phoenix, which made $221,450 through the 2021-2022 season and is on the books for $227,900 for the 2022-2023 season.
In May, the WNBA announced that Griner would receive her full salary without counting it toward Mercury’s salary cap.
Her salary in the WNBA pales in comparison to her earnings in Russia.
Greiner, who has played in Russia for the past seven seasons, earns more than $1 million a season while playing for UMKC Ekaterinburg.
WNBA players have been heading to Russia during the WNBA overseas season for years, as WNBA superstar Sue Bird started her time with UMKC Ekaterinburg in 2011-2012, according to the New York Times.
“Everything was literally top notch,” Baird once said. “We’re staying in the best hotels. We go to Paris. We’re, like, the Hotel Bombs in Paris.”
Recently, the WNBA has been trying to discourage players from traveling abroad during the break, and has instituted a “prioritization” policy. From 2023, players will be fined if they arrive late to their team’s training camps and will be suspended for the whole season starting in 2024.
This story was contributed by Ryan Gaydus of Fox News and The Associated Press