WNBA coach Becky Hammon calls on Russia to ‘do the right thing’ ahead of Brittney Griner sentencing

WNBA coach Becky Hammon calls on Russia to ‘do the right thing’ ahead of Brittney Griner sentencing

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Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon, who once won a medal for Russia in the 2008 Summer Olympics, is pleading with the Kremlin to “do the right thing” and release WNBA star Brittney Griner. 

The six-time WNBA All-Star, who spent much of her offseason time playing for Russian teams, spoke just days before the closing arguments in Griner’s case. 

Becky Hammon of Russia looks on against Australia during the women's basketball bronze medal game at the Olympic Games on Aug. 11, 2012, in London.

Becky Hammon of Russia looks on against Australia during the women’s basketball bronze medal game at the Olympic Games on Aug. 11, 2012, in London. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images))

“It’s something that obviously hits super close to home for me and so I just ask the Russian government to do the right thing,” she told Reuters in an interview Tuesday. “It’s never too late to do the right thing. We’re asking for leniency. We’re asking for grace. And we’re asking to bring home BG.”

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Griner appeared in court on Thursday for the closing arguments in a trial where she pleaded guilty last month to cannabis possession after oils derived from cannabis were discovered in her bag at a Moscow airport in February.

She offered an apology in court before sentencing. 

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner enters a cage in a courtroom prior to a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner enters a cage in a courtroom prior to a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” she said. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

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She added: “Hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”

Hammon won a bronze medal for Russia in the 2008 Beijing Games after becoming a naturalized citizen a year earlier. It was a controversial move for the American basketball star, but she defended her decision at the time, saying it was a matter of reaching a professional goal, not one of country pride. 

Becky Hammon of Russia stands for the national anthem prior to the game against the U.S. Women's Senior National Team at the Olympic Games on Aug. 21, 2008 in Beijing.

Becky Hammon of Russia stands for the national anthem prior to the game against the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team at the Olympic Games on Aug. 21, 2008 in Beijing. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

“The jersey that I wear has never made me who I was. It has nothing to do with what’s written on my heart,” she told ESPN in 2008. “Will I be playing for Russia? Yes. But I’m absolutely 100% still an American. I love our country. I love what we stand for. This is an opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the Olympics.”

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Hammon knows all too well the dynamics of playing in Russia, and warned of the fallout that could follow once Griner is sentenced. 

Head coach Becky Hammon of the Las Vegas Aces looks on during the New York Liberty game at Barclays Center on July 14, 2022, in Brooklyn.

Head coach Becky Hammon of the Las Vegas Aces looks on during the New York Liberty game at Barclays Center on July 14, 2022, in Brooklyn. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

“If (Griner) were to have to serve a (prison) sentence, I think there would have to be bad implications internationally on the sports world,” she told Reuters. “There’s certain ways to put pressure on Russia. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.”

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

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