My Turn, Roger Barbee: Griner made bad calculation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2022

Being captive in any jail or prison must be awful and even worse if the confinement is in a foreign country. Visits from loved ones probably are rare, if not impossible, and the government under which you are being held may not be a “friend” of the United States. Your only contact with other Americans is likely someone who works at the American Embassy, which is a relationship built on politics and diplomacy, not love. It’s necessary and appreciated, but not warm and fuzzy.

Brittney Griner has been imprisoned in the Russia for four months and just pleaded guilty. According to Reuters and Russian media reports, she told the judge at the second hearing of her trial, “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law. I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.” Griner explained that she had packed in a rush and the vape cartridges made it into her bag by accident. If found guilty Griner could be sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

As a seasoned college, professional, and Olympic basketball star, Griner surely knows that it matters not if a player intends to commit a foul, but when she does commit a foul, the official blows the whistle, and a penalty is assessed. The act, not the intent, is called.

Griner and many others have pleaded to U.S. officials to help her. She even sent a letter to President Biden asking him to intervene. But she admits to the foul of breaking Russian law. She was entering Russia to make money doing what she does well and says that she packed in a hurry. What? She wants us to believe that she rushed her packing for an extended period of playing basketball in a foreign country. I doubt her veracity in this explanation.

Yes, she is a fellow American and should be helped as much as possible, but not at the expense of Paul Whelan who, I have no doubt, has languished since 2018 in a Russian cell on a false charge. He needs attention first.

Griner calculated on her fame. A bad calculation, I think. She now pays the price for her act of breaking Russian law.


Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. Contact him at