Brittney Griner's peculiar inconsistency on human rights
It's old news that basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for the crime of drug-smuggling. Her excuse for bringing hash oil into Russia was that she had not intentionally violated the law, because she got the oil from a doctor for chronic pain. The court was not impressed. It is also old news that Brittney Griner has expressed contempt for the national anthem of the United States, citing human rights abuses by this country against Black people. It is possible that she feels differently about her country now that she is in prison in a country that does not afford the rights and privileges the United States does, but I can't honestly say I am interested in that aspect of her case.
What I do find interesting is an old story that I ran across this week, detailing the huge amount of money Brittney Griner was able to earn playing basketball for China. Initially, she could make "only" $49,440 during her rookie season with the Phoenix Mercury basketball team. But then she went to China, where she raked in $600,000 playing for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls. I found it odd that this woman, who is so concerned for human rights, would play ball for China, a country with one of the most appalling records of human rights violations in the world. According to Amnesty International, China has perpetrated
abuses within the criminal justice system, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, the use of torture in detention, criminalization of freedom of expression, the persecution of religious groups, human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and forced evictions.
Threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and other activists were perpetrated with impunity. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses intensified. Torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention remained endemic and prosecutions of perpetrators rare. Enforced disappearances were reported in Chechnya. The authorities failed to address domestic violence. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination. Arbitrary deportations of refugees and asylum seekers persisted.
Note that Russia is specifically cited for abuses against gays, a community to which Brittney Griner belongs. It would seem that to her, human rights matter only when it doesn't cost her anything, and when she is offered piles of cash, she is willing to overlook appalling abuses even against minorities and gays.
Reading about Brittney Griner's priorities, I can't help thinking of Matthew 16:26: "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.
Image: Speaker Office of Nancy Pelosi, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.