Basketball

NFL reporters callously make light of Brittney Griner’s nine-year Russian prison sentence

Right after WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison, NFL reporters Ian Rapoport and James Palmer make light of her verdict. 

Even though NFL training camps are in full swing, the on-air talent still felt they needed to fill space with their off-the-air conversations. Soon enough, NFL reporters Ian Rapoport, James Palmer and Andrew Siciliano will likely wish they kept their commercial break conversation off the air, as they’re now under a lot of fire for making light of one of the most harrowing headlines in sports today.

Right after the news broke that WNBA Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison, Palmer joked about how Rapoport bragged about being able to survive in a Russian prison. The timing is suspect, considering the announcement of Griner’s verdict, meaning that Griner’s fate somehow got turned into a callous game of who could win their own “Locked Up Abroad” challenge.

For Rapoport to assume that he would be just fine in Russian prison is not only insensitive — it’s improbable. Rapoport and his American cohosts are so far removed from the reality that Griner, and other detained Americans in Russia, currently face.

James Palmer, Ian Rapoport joke about surviving Russian prison after Brittney Griner sentencing

Aside from whatever Rapoport imagines as “surviving” a Russian prison entails, this much is certain: Rapoport would be facing a foreign prison system without legal help or jurisdiction from the United States. This means that, depending on the crime, Rapoport could potentially face a decade or more in prison without the possibility of release, the way Griner and Paul Whelan are right now.

Rapoport would be removed from the comforts of his everyday job, his lucrative NFL media paycheck, and his family and loved ones, the way Olympic medalist and WNBA champion Griner remains for the time being.

In her emotional plea before the verdict and in the letter she recently wrote President Biden, Griner has made it clear that surviving in a Russian prison while facing a daunting decade-long sentence is terrifying.

For anyone to make light of what Griner now faces — in addition to the other Americans in her situation — isn’t something that should be turned into a game.

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