Brittney Griner will never make as much money in her basketball career as LeBron James did in a single year. Maybe that’s fair, a simple matter of supply and demand. Sports capitalism at work in the United States.
It’s also true that the freedom of Griner, who has been jailed in Russia for more than four months on drug possession charges, is not worth as much in the US as James’ well-being. And that’s just plain wrong, an indication of how emotionally bankrupt we can be in this country.
At 6-foot-9, Griner is among the all-time giants in American basketball history, leading Baylor to a championship in college, winning the WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury, and winning two-time Olympic gold for her country’s glory.
But like too many Americans appreciate our sports heroes, she’s got three punches against her. Griner is black, gay and female.
Griner has been jailed and on trial in Russia and faces a possible 10 years in prison for being caught by customs officials at a Moscow airport earlier this year with vape canisters containing 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage.
“If it was LeBron, he would be home, right?” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said during a post-game press conference earlier this month, speaking the truth that in a country where compassion and justice are heavily in favor of the wealthy and Famous tend to be hard to deny.
“It’s a statement of the worth of a black person. It’s a statement of the worth of a gay person. all these things We know, and that hurts a little bit more.”
Griner has pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis, which she uses for chronic pain. Medical marijuana is not legal in Russia. So let that be a warning to anyone who has ever packed in a hurry for a business trip.
In a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, Griner expressed her greatest fear: “Sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I have… afraid I might be here forever.”
She is being held in Russia as a pawn in tensions with the United States arising from the raging war in Ukraine. Griner was beaten up at home for refusing to stand up for the national anthem in protest of racism.
The commercial realities of the basketball business are why Griner has been playing in Russia since 2014, as her estimated $1 million salary at UMMC Ekaterinburg is four times the $227,000 she earns as a perpetual All-Star for the Mercury in the United States receives.
By comparison, James is said to have made more than $120 million in the last calendar year from his salary with the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as from far more lucrative off-court deals. Forbes estimates his net worth at over $1 billion. It’s good to be King James.
While gender equality can be frustratingly difficult to find in the day-to-day workplace, it’s difficult to argue that the entertainment value Griner offers can even remotely compete with the audience James draws to everything he does from immersion a basketball to endorsing lemonade pop to be in a Class B movie.
So I’m not going to ask Griner to make more money to play basketball.
But I’m certainly not the first and hopefully won’t be the last to ask: Why don’t we care more about bringing Griner back to the United States?
We are not obligated to pay all of our sports heroes equally.
But shouldn’t we all, as compassionate-hearted Americans, cheer loudly for Griner’s safe return?
https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/07/19/brittney-griner-cannabis-russia-prison-lebron-james-mark-kiszla/ Every US sports fan bleeding red, white and blue should be screaming for Brittney Griner’s safe return – Greeley Tribune