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Brittney Griner

August 11, 2022

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison

Ask students: What crime was Brittney Griner convicted of? How has the war in Ukraine impacted Russia’s attitude towards Americans who commit crimes?


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U.S. women’s basketball star Brittney Griner now faces 9 years in a Russian prison. She was convicted Thursday in a Russian court on drug charges for having cannabis oil in her luggage last February as she arrived in Moscow. The Biden administration had sharply criticized her arrest and condemned the verdict. For a transcript, click here.

For the sake of time, you can watch just the first 3m:18s of the video. If your class would like to learn more about U.S. efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap for Griner, watch the rest of the video.

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Five Facts

  • What crime was Brittney Griner convicted of?
  • Why does Julia Ioffe describe the convictions of the two Americans as “kidnappings”?
  • How has the war in Ukraine impacted Russia’s attitude towards Americans who commit crimes?
  • When was Griner arrested, relative to the beginning of the war in Ukraine?
  • What is the most common crime among women in prison in Russia?

Focus Questions

As Ioffe stated, part of the reason that Russia is giving Americans such long sentences is to use them to trade for Russian prisoners in the U.S. Should the U.S. government engage in these trade talks to bring the prisoners home, or does that just encourage the Russians to continue using this strategy? What do you think?

Media literacy: Contrast Griner’s story with that of the American teacher who was sentenced to 14 years for marijuana possession. Why have you heard of one story and not the other? Is it fair that celebrities get more coverage than everyday people?

For More

To learn more about the Biden administration’s attempts to free Griner, check out the story below.

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Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

Understanding the War in Ukraine

Learn more about the crisis unfolding in Ukraine with resources we've gathered on this developing topic.

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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