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Hammon, Former Russian Olympian, Calls for Putin to Release Griner

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 8/6/2022 Mike McDaniel
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The Aces coach took a strong stance in favor of getting Griner home.

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Aces coach Becky Hammon, a former Russian Olympian, called for Russian president Vladimir Putin to release WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Hammon implored Putin to “do the right thing” after Griner was arrested in February and charged this past week with smuggling drugs with criminal intent. Hammon was initially arrested at Moscow’s airport when officials said they found hashish oil in her luggage.

Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony and fined 1 million rubles, which amounts to $16,500.

“It’s something that obviously hits super close to home for me and so I just ask the Russian government to do the right thing,” Hammon told Reuters on Tuesday.

Hammon was a six-time WNBA All-Star, playing professionally in both the WNBA and in Russia and winning a bronze medal representing Russia at the 2008 Olympics. She joined the Spurs as an assistant in 2014, and was hired as the head coach of the WNBA’s Aces in 2022. 

“It’s never too late to do the right thing. We’re asking for leniency. We’re asking for grace. And we’re asking to bring home BG,” Hammon added.

The U.S. government could ultimately play a major role in how much of the nine-year sentence Griner serves in Russia. The U.S. has been actively trying to negotiate a prisoner swap where Russia would be sent convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, while Americans would receive Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan.

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