WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia is because she had to go there because she was unable to ‘make equal pay here in the United States’, according to a MSNBC segment that highlighted the “disparity in American life” as WNBA players are paid less than NBA players on average.
Appearing on MSNBC The cross connection with Tiffany Cross on Saturday, former State Department spokesperson and former senior Obama White House director Nayyera Haq discussed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding the possible release of Brittney Griner.
Asked about Lavrov’s suggestion to return to “quiet diplomacy” on the issue of prisoner swaps, Haq claimed the Russian foreign minister was “just trying to buy time to do Putin’s bidding.”
Arguing that Griner’s imprisonment was a political decision in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Haq claimed that the amount of THC allegedly in Griner’s possession was relatively negligible.
“Even if she had that – the amount of THC she had is less than what people in Russia have and only serves a maximum [of] two months,” she said.
“So she has already served more time than is criminally recognized in Russia, so this is a political arrest and Putin is going to get what he can out of it, including a guilty plea from her and potentially a merchant arms in exchange that will help it in its global ambitions,” she added.
When asked her opinion on the State Department’s handling of the situation, the former senior State Department adviser argued that Griner’s imprisonment was quite different from other political hostages.
“Brittaney Griner is a bit different because she was also a celebrity in Russia – very high profile – and we know the only reason she was in Russia is because she was unable to earn a salary. equal here in the United States as NBA stars would do,” Haq said.
“So it shows the disparity in American life in a way that we don’t typically see when it comes to wartime hostages,” she added.
Haq was then asked about the impact of the US government’s negotiations with Russia and whether it endangered Americans around the world.
Calling it “worrying”, the former Obama aide claimed that, on the other hand, other countries are now issuing travel warnings to the United States “because of our gun control problem “.
“So we have to recognize that we have our challenges here too that make other countries wary of spending tourists’ money here,” she said.
Earlier in the month, Haq called to “fix” the domestic problem that brought Griner to Russia to begin with.
“#BrittanyGriner did what she had to do to move forward in a terrible process as a political hostage,” Haq wrote.
In the same thread, she describes Griner as a “known public figure in Russia, where she makes more money than she ever made in the United States.”
“Star WNBA player earns less than an NBA starter,” she wrote. “Solve this problem! Check out the @WNBA games, they’re FUN.
It is not about the rule of law, but about the state of Putin.
BG is a well-known public figure in Russia, where she makes more money than she ever made in the United States.
The star WNBA player earns less than an NBA starter.
Solve this problem! Will see @WNBA games, they are FUN. 2/
— Nayyera (@nayyeroar) July 7, 2022
On another show this month, Haq explained that while visitors to Russia are warned to follow local rules, “the whole reason she was there is because she, as a star of the WNBA, is winning. $250,000 a year.”
“She earns less than a starting player in the NBA,” she said. “So there’s a domestic aspect to that that we can rectify.”
“Anyone who wants to talk about #FreeBritneyGrineractivism has been great in keeping this on Russia’s radar, but it doesn’t solve the problem we face here at home, the pay disparity, the discrimination. @nayyeroar with @MichaelSteele #SubbingForSymone pic.twitter.com/dm5cvSiRU4
— SYMONE (@symonemsnbc) July 9, 2022
To those fighting to free Griner by speaking out about his case and putting him in the spotlight, Haq suggested that their activism “doesn’t solve the problem we face here at home of pay disparity, discrimination “.
“Start going to WNBA games if you really care,” she suggested. “They are great fun.”
“It’s a very different style of play,” added Haq. “But we have to put our money where our mouth is if we really want to support female athletes here at home, not just when they become political hostages.”
Griner was stopped and jailed in Russia in February for breaking the country’s drug laws when airport officials found a vape cartridge in her luggage infused with CBD oils. She was charged with possession of illegal drugs and this week pleaded guilty of possession, but said she did not intentionally violate the country’s strict drug laws.
However, several days before his guilty plea, Griner sent a letter at Biden’s White House pleading with Biden to use his power to free her from her Russian prison cell.
In her letter, Griner wrote in part, “On July 4, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father, who is a Vietnam War veteran. It hurts to think about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.
However, earlier, Griner Told sports media, “I honestly think we shouldn’t play the national anthem during our season. I think we should take that stance.
Even though the league decided to play the anthem, Griner said she was going to stand with others against the country anyway.
“I’m going to protest anyway. I won’t be there for the national anthem,” she said. “If the league continues to want to play, that’s fine. It will be all season, I will not be there. I have a feeling others will probably do the same. I can only speak for myself.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.