Megan Rapinoe leads call at ESPYS for Brittney Griner’s return; Russia says US must respect law

Megan Rapinoe leads call at ESPYS for Brittney Griner’s return; Russia says US must respect law

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Megan Rapinoe and Billie Jean King were among the sports figures who called for Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison at the ESPY Awards Wednesday night, while officials in Moscow maintained Americans must respect the law in Russia.

Griner, a WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist for Team USA, was arrested in February for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. 

She pleaded guilty to the charge earlier this month. Her lawyers said Griner was prescribed cannabis for medical purposes.

“For me, the most striking thing is that BG’s not here. BG deserves to be free. She’s being held as a political prisoner, obviously,” Rapinoe said during her speech for best play at the ESPYS. 

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Soccer player Megan Rapinoe of OL Reign arrives at the ESPY Awards Wednesday, July 20, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Soccer player Megan Rapinoe of OL Reign arrives at the ESPY Awards Wednesday, July 20, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“Like what are we doing here dressed up like we are when our sister is detained abroad? We haven’t done enough, none of us. We can do more, we can support her more and just let her know that we love her so much.”

King added: “First, bring BG home. Gotta do that.”

The U.S. State Department has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.” Griner acknowledged she had the canisters with her but had no intention of breaking the law. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday the U.S. laws legalizing cannabis in some states have no bearing on what happens in Russia.

BRITTNEY GRINER GUILTY PLEA POSSIBLE ‘GAMBLE’ TO SPEED UP RUSSIA EXIT: EXPERT

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner holds up a photo of players from the recent All-Star Game wearing her number while sitting in a cage in a courtroom prior to a hearing in the Khimki district court, just outside Moscow, Russia, July 15, 2022. 

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner holds up a photo of players from the recent All-Star Game wearing her number while sitting in a cage in a courtroom prior to a hearing in the Khimki district court, just outside Moscow, Russia, July 15, 2022.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

“If a U.S. citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian local laws and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” Zakharova said.

“You understand, if drugs are legalized in the United States — in a number of states — and this is done for a long time, and now the whole country will become drug addicted. This does not mean that all other countries are following the same path.”

Russian media has speculated that Griner could be exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is imprisoned in the U.S. Russian authorities have said that no swap could take place until Griner is sentenced.

An alley past a mural depicting WNBA star Brittney Griner, top left, and other American hostages and wrongful detainees who are being held abroad Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington.

An alley past a mural depicting WNBA star Brittney Griner, top left, and other American hostages and wrongful detainees who are being held abroad Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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A Russian court has authorized Griner’s detention until Dec. 20. She’s scheduled for another hearing Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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