This post was originally published on The Washington Informer

By Stacy M. Brown

Members of the Washington Mystics said the legal plight of fellow WNBA player Brittney Griner has discouraged them from playing overseas despite lucrative opportunities, even with everyone from Joe Biden to Dennis Rodman pushing for her release from a Russian prison.

WNBA players usually earn more money playing overseas than in the United States, but the lure of such cash grabs has dulled in the wake of Griner being sentenced earlier this month to nine years in prison for drug possession.

“I don’t know if being politically correct is right right now,” Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen, who played in Italy last season, said at her end-of-season press conference. “So I know I wouldn’t want to play in Russia. I mean that’s just that.”

Hines-Allen’s teammate, Elizabeth Williams, said Griner’s situation opens conversations for players who wanted to stay home.

“I think it won’t be surprising to see that a lot of players are gonna go over there and just take the bigger checks because it’s kind of is what it is,” Williams told D.C.’s WRC-TV (Channel 4).

Griner, jailed in Moscow since February, told the court during her trial that she’s still unsure how cannabis oil ended up in her luggage.

She said a doctor recommended cannabis oil for her injuries on the basketball court.

“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” Griner said, adding that she was aware of the Russian law outlawing cannabis oil and that she had not intended to break it.

Meanwhile, former NBA great Dennis Rodman formally canceled plans to go to Russia to help gain Griner’s release, and Biden administration officials have pushed back against such a visit.

Negotiations outside of established channels are “likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Confirmed reports said the U.S. government had offered to swap the so-called “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout for Griner and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan.

Bout, who’s serving a 25-year federal prison sentence and notorious for his desire to kill Americans, reportedly has been at the top of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wish list.

“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”

The unnamed sources told the network that the planned trade received the backing of President Joe Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year.

CNN reported that Biden’s support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades.

The families of Whelan, who Russia has held for alleged espionage since 2018, and Griner have urged the White House to secure their release, including via a prisoner exchange, if necessary, the CNN report stated.

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