Talk about American entitlement. The 1978 film Midnight Express did a fantastic job at exploring what happens to Americans who commit crimes in other nations, particularly nations that lack the “freedoms” that the United States affords its citizens, as laid out in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. But Americans always have to remember when they go somewhere else, they do not have the same rights.
That is what faces WNBA star Brittney Griner right now: She broke drug laws in Russia, and now she faces a jail sentence there that could last a decade. Considering the diplomatic relations between that nation and the U.S. over the last handful of years, she really should have known better than to try to bring banned drugs (in this case, hashish oil) into Russia.
There are illogical laments that this is all because of her gender, her race, and/or her sexuality. But those just are not true in this case. Even international fame as an athlete would not save anyone in this situation; in fact, Griner’s high profile as a two-time Olympic gold medalist probably hurts her in this case, for multiple reasons.
First, she’s used to getting her way through enablement and entitlement as a famous person in America. Second, her profile makes her more valuable to the Russians in terms of a “prisoner exchange” with the United States. Third, that high profile means she probably is being made an example of to show Americans that they better not believe they can bring their “lawlessness” to Russia.
Is any of this fair to Griner? No. But really, how dense can you be to not know the laws and rules of a nation you’re trying to bring drugs to? This is one-hundred percent her fault. And in America, her famous exploits would probably get her off the hook legally with a slap on the wrist, but she’s not in America—she’s in Putin’s Russia, and that’s not where a Black American lesbian wants to be breaking the law.
So, yes, her gender, race, and sexuality hurt her in this case—not because she broke the law in another country and can’t get out, but because people fitting her profile in Russia are targeted routinely by the Putin-controlled government there. Again, knowing what kind of persecution already goes on in that nation, why would Griner go there in the first place? And why would she brings drugs with her?
She probably expected her celebrity to wash away all other things, so this is about entitlement. She can make money in other countries that don’t discriminate against her demographic; her greed took her to Russia, and her entitlement foolishly made her believe she’d be fine bringing drugs there. We also can blame all/any of her handlers who didn’t think this through themselves, either, for their client.
So, no, LeBron James would not be in this situation, financially or socially, for multiple reasons. And if he was? He would not be coming home, either, because his celebrity is his value to Putin. This is simply about an arrogant, ignorant American going abroad and not realizing or remembering that America is still much freer than many other nations in this world.
This all comes down to entitlement, nothing more. And that’s very sad for both Griner and all Americans, in truth. In the 1990s, though, college students always were warned, for example, before traveling on breaks about the different laws in other nations. We’ve seen plenty of Americans get in hot water while visiting ally nations, too. The government has a website for all this now, of course, as well.
Griner made the terrible mistake of thinking none of this applied to her because of her celebrity status. She now may be paying for that error in judgment for a long time.