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Atlanta Dream coach on Brittney Griner: 'The punishment definitely does not fit the crime'

WNBA star Brittney Griner was given a 9-year prison sentence in Russia in a drug possession case, an outcome in what was widely seen as a political show trial.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Dream Coach Tanisha Wright said she was "saddened" by Brittney Griner's 9-year prison sentence Friday night, and expressed her hope that efforts to bring her home would soon be successful.

"The punishment definitely does not fit the crime, nobody can convince me otherwise," Wright said.

The WNBA star was handed the punishment this week in a Russian court, an outcome from what was widely seen as a political show trial by the country. She had been held since February after police in Moscow said they found vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her bags at the airport.

Her lawyers argued she'd been using cannabis she'd legally obtained in Arizona for medical reasons, but the outcome of the trial was seen as a foregone conclusion - with Russia taking advantage of the chance to gain a diplomatic edge on the U.S. 

RELATED: What's next for Brittney Griner after her drug smuggling conviction

The government has offered the infamous weapons dealer Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen in jail in the U.S., to Russia in a proposed prisoner swap for Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan.

Wright, speaking after Atlanta's win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night, urged the government to "step up" to get her home.

"I hope that our nation steps up and gets her home, and gets her home very soon," she said. "I'm saddened... I think the whole (WNBA) is, quite frankly. BG is part of our family, we want her to get home."

President Biden denounced as “unacceptable” the verdict and sentence, which came amid soaring tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine. 

“I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden said 

Griner has 10 days to appeal, and her lawyers say they expect a hearing in Moscow regional court next week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also said the country is "ready to discuss" a prisoner swap.

Wright, meanwhile, said the situation has everyone in the WNBA recognizing what's really important.

"When we look at the grand scheme of things, we're just playing a basketball game. This s*** doesn't really matter," she said. "You know, you're talking about somebody's life. And that's a big deal."

   

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