Two-time Olympic gold medallist Brittney Griner had her appeal against a nine-year prison sentence rejected by a Russian court on Tuesday.

The WNBA star was jailed in August for drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent.

Griner was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 for bringing under a gram of cannabis oil into Russia in vape cartridges, with the American stating she had made an "honest mistake."

The eight-time WNBA All-Star was, her lawyers argued, using cannabis for medicinal purposes to treat chronic pain sustained over the course of her career and was not aware cannabis oil was outlawed in Russia.

Exactly a week after her 32nd birthday, Griner on Tuesday took part in the hearing via video link from a penal colony outside Moscow, where she has been imprisoned.

The Phoenix Mercury player once again apologised for an "honest mistake" when she spoke to an appeals court of three judges, saying it had been a "very, very stressful" time for her.

She said: "I really hope that the court will adjust this sentence because it has been very, very stressful and very traumatic. People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given."

Griner was unsuccessful with her appeal, with the judge stating the verdict was upheld "without changes" except for time served in pre-trial detention as part of the sentence.

The United States national security advisor Jake Sullivan responded to the verdict by stating: "We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today.

"President [Joe] Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.

"The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the families, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances."

Stephen Curry says he spoke to Adam Silver about Robert Sarver's punishment and is pleased with the sanctions imposed on the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner.

The NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10million after an investigation questioned 320 people over allegations about his behaviour during his 18 years with the Suns.

Sarver last week announced that he intends to sell up after he was found him to have engaged in racist and sexist conduct.

Golden State Warriors superstar Curry revealed he contacted NBA commissioner Silver about the issue and has given his backing to the outcome.

He said during a Warriors media day: "[I] got [Silver's] point of view of what decisions and, I guess, mechanisms he had to intervene and bring down a punishment that was worthy of the actions that we were all responding to and representing the league as a whole and protecting the integrity of the league and the standard that we set terms of from execs, ownership, all the way down to players.

"There should be a standard around what's tolerable and what's not."

Curry added: "I think the outcome was exactly what should have happened.

"Honestly, I thought with the punishment that was handed down, it would have dragged out a little longer, but I'm glad we got to a point where hopefully the team is up for sale sooner than later and can kind of move on knowing that's where it should be."

 

 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says Robert Sarver's decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury is "right next step for the organisation and community."

Sarver on Wednesday announced that he intends to sell up after an investigation found him to have engaged in racist and sexist conduct.

The 60-year-old was suspended for one year and fined $10million by the NBA last week after an investigation questioned 320 people over allegations about Sarver's behaviour during his 18 years with the Suns.

Silver believes it is the right move from Sarver to seek buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

He said: "I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. This is the right next step for the organisation and community."

Sarver earlier declared: "Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organisations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men's and women's basketball. 

"I expected that the commissioner's one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

"But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past.

"For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

"I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world.

"I want what's best for these two organisations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.

"In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together."

Robert Sarver has announced his intention to sell the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury after an investigation found him to have engaged in racist and sexist conduct at the workplace.

Sarver was suspended for one year and fined $10million by the NBA last week after an investigation questioned 320 people on allegations of Sarver's behaviour over his 18 years spent with the Suns.

The investigation prompted widespread criticism of both Sarver and the NBA's response, including four-time MVP LeBron James saying: "Our league definitely got this wrong."

In a statement, Sarver declared: "Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organisations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men's and women's basketball. 

"I expected that the commissioner's one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

"But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past.

"For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

"I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world.

"I want what's best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.

"In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together."

Brittney Griner's defence team has appealed against her nine-year prison sentence in Russia.

The WNBA star was this month jailed for drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent for bringing under a gram of cannabis oil into the country nearly six months ago.

Judge Anna Sotnikova rejected Griner's apology and plea for leniency. Griner said she had made an "honest mistake".

Griner was arrested in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was returning to Russia, where she has played since 2014 during the WNBA offseason.

The eight-time WNBA All-Star was, her lawyers argued, using cannabis for medicinal purposes to treat chronic pain sustained over the course of her career.

The two-time Olympic champion said she accidentally packed the cartridges and was unaware cannabis oil was outlawed in Russia.

United States president Joe Biden slammed the sentence as "unacceptable" and Griner's lawyer Maria Blagovolina told Reuters on Monday that an appeal had been filed.

The US government and Russia are engaged in prisoner swap negotiations that, if successful, would see Griner released to return home.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on Thursday.

Judge Anna Sotnikova reached her verdict quickly, which also included a fine of 1million rubles, rejecting Griner's apology and plea for leniency for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil into the country more than five months ago.

United States president Joe Biden called the sentence "unacceptable".

While the war in Ukraine continues to cause tension between the US government and Moscow, the US State Department is now expected to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Russia, and a conviction was necessary before the process of organising a swap could begin.

An eight-time All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury and widely considered one of the greatest players in WNBA history, the 31-year-old Griner was arrested in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was returning to Russia, where she has played since 2014 during the WNBA offseason.

The WNBA and NBA issued a joint statement after the sentence was handed down.

"Today's verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate but not unexpected, and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained," the statement read.

"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."

At her trail on July 7, her lawyers argued that Griner was using the cannabis for medicinal purposes to treat chronic pain sustained over the course of her career.

While on the stand, the two-time Olympic champion said she accidentally packed the cartridges and was unaware cannabis oil was outlawed in Russia.

"Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney," Biden said in a statement.

"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately, so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and team-mates."

A phone call between jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle is being rescheduled after a failed attempt to connect on their anniversary, due to an "unfortunate" mistake.

The couple had not spoken since Griner's drug-related arrest in February, but attempts to connect through the United States Embassy in Russia were hindered since the phone line at the embassy was not staffed.

On Monday, it was discovered Griner tried to call 11 times over a period of several hours, dialling a number she had been given to patch the call through to her wife in Phoenix, but each call was left unanswered due to the unstaffed desk on Saturday.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price apologised for the "logistical error", confirming a rescheduled call will take place.

"We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife over the weekend because of a logistical error," he told reporters.

"It was a mistake, it is a mistake that we have worked to rectify. As we said before, the call has been rescheduled and will take place in relatively short order.

"It was a logistical issue that was compounded by the fact that our embassy in Moscow is under significant restrictions in terms of its staffing, and so when we have issues with the telephone system there, for example, the technicians are not located on site. In fact, they're not even located in Russia."

Griner, the two-time Olympic gold medallist who plays for Phoenix Mercury and UMMC Ekaterinburg, was detained at a Russian airport in February after authorities there said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

The US State Department designated her as wrongfully detained in May, while last week, Russian state news agency TASS reported a pre-trial detention had been extended until July.

For Cherelle Griner, the unanswered calls have had a demoralising effect.

"I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now," she told the Associated Press. "If I can't trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife's behalf to come home? Because that's a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.

"This was such a big moment because this would have been the first time where I truly could tell if she's OK. This would have been the first time for me to actually just hear her in real time and to truly know if she's OK or to know if she's seconds away from not being in existence anymore."

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