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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar praises LeBron James and others but warns of possible blowback — “We may be inadvertently delaying [Brittney Griner's] release”

Brittney Griner's been in a Russian prison for five months, and despite everyone's best effort, there's not been a lot of progress in securing her release.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared his opinion on a sensitive topic that’s currently trending: freeing Brittney Griner. The former Lakers star commended LeBron James and other players and celebrities for voicing their support but pointed out they won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

Special case

Griner has been detained in Russia for more than five months now. She was caught with cannabis oil which is illegal and considered a criminal offense in Russia. The basketball star is medically permitted to use cannabis to treat pain, but in a different country, there are different rules.

Now, celebrities and athletes have campaigned for Griner’s release. However, Kareem thinks it wouldn’t matter because the problem is political, to begin with. LeBron James has an influence on the NBA and US culture, but outside the U.S. and especially in Russia, it means close to nothing.

Everyone supporting Brittney Griner has their hearts in the right place. Good people, one and all. But heart alone isn’t effective in bringing about her release, and by publicly pressuring the U.S. government, we may be inadvertently delaying her release,” Kareem wrote on his Substack

The King had been vocal in his support and even received flak for his comments regarding the WNBA star.

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Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian also chimed in, but the Phoenix Mercury’s center’s release is not closer today than five months ago. The worst-case predictions say her detention could last up to 10 years after pleading guilty to the charges.

Looking at the big picture

In this regard, Abdul-Jabbar questioned if it was the right way to voice support for Griner’s release: celebrities and athletes using social media to gain traction. The Big A added that if they support Brittney now, where were the athletes’ and celebrities’ voices trying to free other political prisoners in the past?

On the surface level, athletes and celebrities probably know that it won’t make a difference outside the U.S., but because they have a platform, they might feel obligated to do the right thing.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suggested what might be the best route to gain support: involve international people that matter.

Let us gather celebrities, politicians, and people internationally to put pressure on Russia. In addition, let’s make this appeal for Griner include other Americans who are imprisoned as political pawns and call for their release as well to prove it’s not just celebrities that we value.

Griner is being held for political reasons, but it also doesn’t take away the fact that she disobeyed other countries’ laws. That’s why some people believe that her detention was justified. The White House offered a prisoner exchange, but for now, the Kremlin wasn't interested. 

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is her status depends on the mood of Vladimir Putin. 

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