IN-DEPTH: Why isn’t Brittney Griner a 'big sports story' & why should we care?

Other Americans in Russian jails, two from Texas.
Russia-Griner Arrested Basketball
USA AP.jpeg
Posted at 1:45 PM, Mar 16, 2022

WACO, Texas — Second in scoring. Sixth in rebounds. First in blocked shots.

Many would argue that Brittney Griner's the best offensive player in the WNBA.

Now, she's in a Russian jail after being arrested for a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges.

The story is now catching the attention of American politicians. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton tweeting "Free Brittney."

In security footage, she's in black sweatpants and a black hoodie with "Black Lives for Peace" written on the back. The arrest of Griner, a Baylor alumn and WNBA player, provoked many comments on social media.

Not all positive.

Just a few of the thousands of comments.

"Again OH WELL, If she did this, then she should be punished!! Having money doesn't mean she should get away with this. I wasn't there BUT fair is fair!!"

"Baylor is not responsible for the student's decision. I don’t even care where she studied. She did wrong, face the consequences."


Many of the comments focused on her being LGBTQ+ and poking fun at the player's body.

As Brittney Griner is detained, concerns over treatment of LGBTQ people in Russia arise

"If this was an NBA player of her calibre...this would be on the cover of not only every sports page but every news media page in the world," said Tamryn Spruill, a sports journalist who is writing a book on the WNBA.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is working to free Americans in Russian custody, and he urged other Americans in Russia to leave the country.

Griner is not the only American — or Texan — for that matter in a Russian jail.

Former U.S. marine & Texan sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison

KXXV anchor Todd Unger was one of the first to do a series of stories on former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed. Reed grew up in California and Texas, earning an Eagle Scout rank before enlisting in the Marines.

His family has been begging for his release.

Some had high hopes that the arrest of Griner would help efforts to rescue Americans from Russian jails after the attack on Ukraine.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) told TMZ Sports in a video that Griner is "OK" in Russia, but that he wanted to remain silent hoping WNBA star wouldn't become political pawn.

"Right now, we want to see her treated normally," Allred said. "As anyone else would be and come home as soon as possible."

Many question if Putin is using these Americans for his own power.

Texas Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has said that she believes that Griner was “targeted” for arrest by Russian officials.

In 2020, when Trevor Reed was sentenced in a Moscow court, it was a concern that American ex-servicemen may have been targeted in Russia for political reasons.

"This conviction, and a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous. I cannot even say 'miscarriage of justice,' because clearly 'justice' was not even considered. This was theater of the absurd," ambassador John J. Sullivan
said in the statement in 2020.

Many on social media wanted to know why a WNBA player was in Russia to start with?

The short answer could be lower wages in WNBA and making twice as much overseas.

Liz Cambage, a star for the Los Angeles Sparks, has noted that players can make "five to eight times more money.”

“I’ve been vocal since day one, I sat out five seasons because I get paid 5-8 times more overseas. … It’s hard when you have the best league in the world, but we’re not treated like the best athletes in the world.”

Liz Cambage Los Angeles Sparks

The WNBA has a salary cap. Griner made $221,450 for the 2021–2022 season, which is less than a third of the minimum salary in the NHL, but nevertheless classifies her as the fourth-highest-paid player in the WNBA.

Many online come back that the NBA makes more money so, therefore, NBA players make more.

The 2021 WNBA had around 306,000 viewers — that's a growth of 49 percent compared to 2020 and 24 percent to 2019, according to ESPN.

Seattle Storm versus Chicago Sky back in August on ABC had 755,000 viewers. That made it the most-watched since 2012.