WNBA, NBA and More React to Brittney Griner's Sentencing in Russia: 'Unjustified and Unfortunate'

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Brianna Turner #21, Skylar Diggins-Smith #4, Kia Nurse #0 and Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury
Brianna Turner #21, Skylar Diggins-Smith #4, Kia Nurse #0 and Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury

Ethan Miller/Getty (L-R) Brianna Turner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kia Nurse and Brittney Griner

The WNBA, NBA, politicians and people across the country are reacting to the news that Brittney Griner has been sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison on charges of smuggling drugs into the country.

On Thursday, Griner's lawyers said in a statement shared with PEOPLE that the verdict, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years, is "absolutely unreasonable" and said they will "certainly file an appeal."

A Russian judge read Griner, 31, her verdict Thursday about an hour after her lawyers and the prosecution presented their closing arguments. The Phoenix Mercury star had given an emotional speech, reiterating her stance that though she pled guilty to bringing less than 1 gram of cannabis oil into Russia, she did so "inadvertently" and asked the court for leniency.

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"That's why I pled guilty to my charges. I understand everything that's been said against me, the charges that are against me and that is why I pled guilty but I had no intents to break any Russian laws," Griner said, according to CNN.

RELATED: Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison on Drug Possession Charges

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, holds a picture of her team as she stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a "lenient" sentence.
US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, holds a picture of her team as she stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a "lenient" sentence.

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Brittney Griner holds up a photo of her teammates while in court

"Today's verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in a joint statement shared publicly Thursday. "The WNBA and NBA's commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States."

"Thinking of BG and how much light she relentlessly brought to everyone around her," Griner's Phoenix Mercury teammate Brianna Turner wrote on Twitter. "Even after sentencing is complete I hope @POTUS & @WhiteHouse will continue to do everything in their power to bring Brittney Griner & all other Americans detained abroad home."

And after people started responding to her tweet and criticizing Griner, Turner wrote back that she does not "have the capacity to respond to every hateful message about Brittney Griner."

"I think it's easy to be an outsider and wish the worst. It's easy to not know all the facts. It's easy to spread hate on social media," she wrote. "I know many Americans lack compassion due to all the chaos that happens regularly in our country. BG is my friend and teammate and one of the kindest people I know. Even before being detained in Russia she would receive hate from trolls bc they didn't like her looks or what she supported. Yet she continuously held her head high."

"I would love to individually respond and annihilate every negative viewpoint I receive but that would be a waste of my time," Turner continued. "At the end of the day many people lack compassion & critical thinking skills and it's not my responsibility to teach that. Respectfully, get a life trolls."

The Mercury, who drafted Griner with the first overall pick in 2013, released a statement publicly on Twitter that called the verdict "a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG."

"We are inspired every day by BG's strength and we are steadfastly committed to keeping her top-of-mind publicly until she is safely back on American soil," the club wrote. "We will not allow her to bee forgotten. We are BG."

On the NBA side, Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving was one of the first to speak out in support of Griner.

"What is truly happening with our Queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP ? Please give us an Update," Irving wrote on Twitter, tagging President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as news broke about Griner's sentencing.

Biden reiterated his administration's stance Thursday that "Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney," in a statement shared publicly.

"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," Biden said in the statement. "My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible."

RELATED VIDEO: Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison on Drug Possession Charges

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said last week that the Biden administration offered a "substantial" deal to Russia to secure Griner and Paul Whelan's return home, said in a statement shared with PEOPLE that "the Russian court's conviction and sentencing of U.S. citizen Brittney Griner spotlights our concerns with the Russian government's use of wrongful detentions."

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"I am committed to ensuring we do everything we can to bring home Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan as soon as possible,' Blinken wrote.

Pop star Justin Bieber also offered to help, posting on Instagram: "THIS HURTS. If anyone knows of anyway I can help please let me know."

Phoenix Mercury players bow their heads in prayer at a rally for WNBA basketball teammate Brittney Griner Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Phoenix. Griner has been detained in Russia for 133 days, charged in Russia for having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Phoenix Mercury players bow their heads in prayer at a rally for WNBA basketball teammate Brittney Griner Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Phoenix. Griner has been detained in Russia for 133 days, charged in Russia for having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo Phoenix Mercury rally for Brittney Griner on July 6

WNBA Players' Association, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter, "Brittney Griner is a beautiful individual, inside and out. She lives a life in service to others," along with a thread listing Griner's accolades, including her Olympic gold medal, EuroLeague championship, and Russian League championship wins.

"To the entire global sport community and particularly the governing bodies you should be paying attention to this case, making noise and standing with us in support of BG and the safety of all athletes traveling to compete internationally," the WNBPA continued on Twitter.

"It is Day 168," the statement ended, referencing how long Griner has been held in Russia. "It is time that BG comes home swiftly and safely."

The WNBPA released a separate statement on Twitter, in which it said "Whatever conversations Secretary Blinken and his Russian counterpart need to have, we trust that they are having them with all deliberate speed."

"Americans are not political pawns," Texas congressman Joaquin Castro wrote on Twitter. "Russia's continued wrongful detention of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan is outrageous and both must be released immediately so they can return to their families in the United States."

California congresswoman Barbara Lee called Griner's sentence "absolutely disgraceful" on Twitter.

RELATED:  A Timeline of Brittney Griner's Detainment in Russia

"Brittney Griner should be home with her wife and loved ones, but instead her life is being wielded as a political pawn by Russians in the war against Ukraine," Lee, 76 wrote. "Free her immediately."

"This Brittney Griner situation isn't sitting right with me," former NBA player Jamal Crawford, 42, wrote. We can only do so much with Russia, but we HAVE to keep pressure on our home officials to do whatever they need to do to get her home!"