Brittney Griner, of the US’s most successful women’s basketball players, is stuck in Russia for possession of medical marijuana. In February 2022, Griner arrived in Russia to play in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason. Russian Customs detained her after finding cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. 

Griner pleaded guilty when her trial began on 1st July. In Russia, a case still proceeds to trial even after a guilty plea. 

The case has gained widespread attention as Griner’s family and famous sports personalities petition the US government to secure her release. Griner’s arrest couldn’t have come at a worse time, given tensions between the US and Russia are at their highest since the cold war. 

Griner was bullied when she was younger due to her physique

Britney Griner was born on 18th October 1990 to Raymond and Sandra Griner in Houston, Texas. She grew up alongside three older siblings: DeCarlo, Shekera, and Pier. 

Ray was a military veteran who served in Vietnam and became a Harris County sheriff. Britney told ESPN she enjoyed watching military films with her father and sowing with Sandra. 

Griner was bigger than most of her peers when she started school. She was bullied for her boyish physique and low voice, severely affecting her confidence. Griner told ESPN:

“I never wanted to speak up in class. I didn’t want to hear myself; I hated the way I sounded. I couldn’t listen. They teased me about everything, my different voice, my stature, my chest. I’ve always been flat-chested.”

Brittney released her frustrations on the volleyball court, spiking the ball with all the aggression she could muster. Not one to stand down, Griner got in trouble for lashing out and fighting. Griner told ESPN that she regrets the moments she didn’t fight back. 

In 9th grade, Griner decided to embrace her identity through fashion. She told Mother Jones:

“I would say ninth grade, when I started wearing the clothes that I wanted to wear. I was so tired of living a lie, dressing a certain way. When you go to high school, you definitely feel like you’re an adult, and I wanted to be true to myself.”

Griner felt free in boyish clothes. “I was like, ‘Man, this would’ve been so easy if I would’ve just did it earlier,” she said. Brittany’s fashion choices caused some hilarious mix-ups with her parents. She explained:

“I remember my mom doing my laundry, and my dad being like, ‘Whose boxers are these?’ And I said, ‘They’re mine’ [raises hand slowly]. I’ve always been totally out there – just on a limb.”

Griner’s dad reacted angrily to Brittany coming out as gay

The next step in Brittany’s embrace of her identity involved coming out to her parents. “I ain’t raising no gay girl,” Ray protested. He forbade the high schooler from inviting friends to the house to hang out. 

Having inherited Ray’s stubbornness, Griner and her father fought regularly. They clashed over trivial things, with the root of Ray’s frustration being Griner’s sexuality. 

Eventually, Griner left the house to live with the Nimitz junior varsity basketball coach. She relied on her mom and siblings, who’d accepted her sexuality, for support. Ray came around when he saw that her sexuality didn’t hinder her basketballing prowess. She said:

“It was a process. I think some of why it’s gotten better is because I have done so well with ball.”

“Brittney wants people to accept her for who she is,” Ray told ESPN. “I get that now.”