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Sports world reacts to Brittney Griner conviction

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Following the sentencing of WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine-years in Russian prison Thursday, people from across the sports world expressed sympathy for the Phoenix Mercury center and called for her release.

USA Basketball said in a statement that the organization is “disappointed at the outcome of the legal proceedings against Brittney Griner,” who has won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

“While we are not surprised given what we know of the process, we are hopeful that the formal proceedings will help create an avenue in which Brittney can ultimately be brought home,” the statement continued, adding that USA Basketball continues to support Griner and is engaged with the U.S. State Department.

“The bravery Brittney is demonstrating in the face of these unimaginable circumstances speaks to the person she is and the strength she possesses.”

Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale, who issued a plea to the court for leniency Wednesday, called it “sickening.”

“Can’t just play with people’s lives like that,” she wrote.

“We will not stop advocating for you release,” wrote South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “Hold on to God unchanging hand. We love you, BG!”

Some, like NBA star Isaiah Thomas, expressed disbelief at the length of the sentencing. NBA players Jaden Ivey and Bones Hyland calling out the conviction, with Hyland calling it “crazy.” Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams called out the need to “bring our sister and friend home.”

Mercury guard Diamond DeShields said that seeing Griner behind bars “is breaking my heart.” Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington said that she had “no words” and is “praying so hard for BG.”

Griner’s Phoenix teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith, meanwhile, expressed anger at the conviction, as did the Wings’ Isabelle Harrison.

Others including Kahleah Copper, A’ja Wilson, Swin Cash, Paige Bueckers and LaChina Robinson also issued appeals for Griner’s release and support following the conviction.

President Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday, calling the sentencing “unacceptable” and reiterating the Griner is being wrongfully detained.

Erica Wheeler, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, said that today “hit a little different.”

“I can’t even imagine how her family feels! I pray God is protecting her mental but more importantly keep fighting BG,” she wrote.

New York Liberty center Stefanie Dolson issued love for BG and expressed disbelief.

Former NBA star and current Phoenix Suns color commentator Eddie Johnson called it “another example of the unequal treatment of humans in this world.”

“You have criminals walking around who hurt others and she gets 9 years for them accusing her of hurting herself! History repeats itself again for political gain!” he wrote. “Prayers for Brittney she is a wonderful person!”