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Why the Brittney Griner Sentence Should Concern LGBTQ+ Travelers

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was sentenced Thursday by a Russian court to nine years of jail time, nearly six months after the 31-year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian prosecutors of smuggling drugs.

The two-time U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalist was carrying less than one gram of cannabis oil in a vape pen, which she explained was medical in nature.

Still, Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges last month in what her lawyers said was an attempt to receive leniency on her sentence.Griner wrote in a recent letter to President Biden, “[As] I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.” “This sentence is both excessive and wrong,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement to the press. “We have watched for months as Brittney Griner has been used as a political pawn, even as she has made clear that she did not intend to break any laws.”Certainly, Griner has been used as a political pawn, especially as tensions between the U.S.

and Russia ratcheted up over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is also clearly willing to hold the basketball star hostage to get concessions from the U.S.

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