The Curious Case of Brittney Griner

I wrote a missive a couple years ago about how the Soviet Union in the 1930’s were masters of exploiting America’s racial divides to hide their own misdeeds. In particular I wrote about how the Soviet Union financed the legal team that defended the Scottsboro boys by funneling money through the Communist Party USA at the same time Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin was condemning millions of Soviet citizens, particularly in Ukraine, to die by starvation in the winter of 1932-1933. The Scottsboro boys were a group of African-American young men who had been tried for raping two White women on a train and subsequently condemned to death. Their case when back and forth to the United States Supreme Court and was important for strengthening due process rights throughout the nation.

Scottsboro Boys with their attorney, Samuel Leibowitz.

The Scottsboro Boys, the Holodomor, and George Floyd – Missives to the Abyss (

The point of this earlier missive was to show how our failure to live up to the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, weakens our nation. I concluded that missive with the following:

The failure of the United States to live up to the ideals enshrined in our Constitution, as evidenced by the treatment of the Scottsboro Boys, provided an opening for Stalin and his subordinates in the Communist International to provide cover for their own sins. The blind eye to the plight of our African American citizens was exploited for propaganda purposes by the Marxists, not only to our detriment but to the detriment of the world. Our failure to provide access to justice and due process to all our peoples became our nation’s Achilles heel that was exploited then, and is exploited any time a foreign dictatorship wants to hide their own sins. Such is the case even today, with George Floyd.

In the days of Stalin the Russian communists were very skilled at shaping public opinion, at least in certain sectors of the public, and the government policy of Western powers, regarding Russian crimes. The Western media kept virtually silent when the Russians starved to death millions of Ukrainians during the winter of 1932-1933, to the point where even today that history is largely unknown. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, France and Great Britain immediately declared war on Germany. When the Nazis most important ally, the Soviet Union, invaded Poland a couple weeks later in accordance with an agreement with the Nazis, no such declaration of war against the Soviet Union was made by France and Great Britain.

Which brings me to the very curious case of Brittney Griner. 

Brittney Griner entering a Russian courtroom. ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Griner is a female African-American professional basketball player who was arrested in the Moscow Oblast shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to a full invasion of their neighbor, Ukraine. Griner is not only a WNBA basketball player and one of the most recognizable women basketball players in the whole world, she’s also one of the world’s most recognizable LBGTQ athletes, being a lesbian and in a same-sex marriage. Griner was arrested while on her way to play professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA off-season. Griner was arrested for having in her luggage a few vape cartridges containing THC, or hashish oil. In the Russian court, Griner admitted inadvertently leaving the hashish oil in her luggage, which she indicated had been prescribed to her in the United States, while preparing to go to Russia.

Griner was held for many months, with little contact with her friends, family, and others concerned about her welfare, before being tried in a Russian Court. For Griner’s crime of entering Russia with a few vape cartridges of hashish oil, a crime she admitted to, Griner was given nine years in prison.

In negotiations with the Biden Administration, Russia is reportedly demanding the release of both a notorious Russian arms dealer whose clients targeted American citizens and a Russian assassin serving a life sentence in Germany, in exchange for the release of Griner and a former United States Marine held in Russia on allegations of spying.

The curious part of the whole Griner episode, and one question to be asked, is what does Putin expect to gain by all of this? What is the goal of it all? The targets of Russia’s propaganda in decades past were downtrodden workers and minorities and those who would like to be seen as the allies of such people. The whole propaganda strategy of Putin’s Russia during his invasion of Ukraine seems so utterly incomprehensible and incompetent, in stark contrast to the efforts under Stalin leading up to and during World War II as stated above. But is it?

Putin’s target audience may be totally different from Russia’s in decades past. If the target of Putin’s propaganda is different, who could he be trying to win over to his side, even if by just a little, by giving Griner nine years in prison for carrying in her luggage two vape cartridges of hashish oil? Could Putin possibly think that he is gaining favor with those who may not be inclined to look favorably upon a relatively famous African-American lesbian athlete who is in a same-sex marriage and someone who publicly stated our Nation Anthem should not be played before WNBA games? Are there really such people who would excuse Putin’s human rights violations and barbarism in Ukraine simply because of Russia’s treatment of Brittany Griner?

If anything, Russia’s treatment of Griner undercuts all those who have argued so vehemently against the inadequacies of the American judicial system, including Griner herself. A scant few years ago Griner argued that the United States National Anthem should not be played before WNBA basketball games as a stand against the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Although the deaths of Taylor and Floyd were arguably extra-judicial, their deaths were addressed by the criminal justice system and some semblance of due process followed, albeit after being prodded by a relatively free and active media.

Whatever anyone feels about Brittany Griner personally, does anyone in the United States feel that the Russians followed any semblance of due process in Griner’s case and that her punishment fit her crime? If America’s drug laws are deemed draconian, what of Russia’s? In America, possession of THC is legal in many places. Even where possession of THC is illegal possession of the amounts Griner had is often not punished at all, or only minimally so. In addition, with only two vape cartridges found in her luggage, barring something more than has been alleged in Griner’s case I think it would be very difficult to prove a trafficking charge against Griner in the United States.

In all, is Griner’s case another propaganda disaster for Putin and Russian, or a brilliant ploy along the lines of representing the Scottsboro boys? To me, the case only publicizes what many have said for so many years, that Russia under both Putin and his Communist predecessors have no respect for basic human rights and certainly not for anything resembling the due process of law. By contrast, as flawed in execution as the judicial system in the United States may be at times, compared to our greatest adversaries we compare very favorably.