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The MRC Loves Russian Athletes More Than American Ones

The Media Research Center's sports bloggers fretted that Russian athletes were being treated shabbily after Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- but it loves that WNBA star Brittney Griner is rotting in a Russian prison on trumped-up drug charges.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/21/2022

Brittney Griner

The Media Research Center has never been a fan of WNBA star Brittney Griner, mainly for her failure to be heterosexual. In 2018, for example, Jay Maxson noted that Griner "came out as lesbian," parenthetically sneering, "yawn; that's not news in that league." So it's no surprise that the MRC is more than happy to see Griner rot in a squalid Russian jail in the middle of a war. Maxson huffed in a March 7 post:
When Moscow airport screening officials discovered vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil in Brittney Griner’s luggage in February, they detained her. Now the 6-foot-9-inch WNBA player is looking at 10 years in a Russian prison for “large-scale transportation of drugs.”

Note how easily Maxson is taking the word of a corrupt, warmongering government at face value. Never mind, of course, that the Russian government had not offered anything remotely resembling evidence of Griner's alleged misdeed.

Maxson, however, spent most of his post lashing out at a writer who pointed out that Griner was making so little as a WNBA star that she felt she needed to play overseas for a Russian team to make more money. Maxson whined that the writer was "quick to excuse Griner’s drug indiscretions" -- again, no proof that any "drug indiscretions" were committed has been made public -- going on to huff:

[The writer] says players like Griner can make much more money playing overseas than in the WNBA, with its league maximum salary of $227,900. That’s not exactly chump change, but it certainly deflates the merits of the Insider sob story. In fact, Griner’s WNBA pay is nearly five times the average U.S. salary. She also earns $1 million from Ekaterina, pushing her total salary to 25 times the average U.S. salary.

Long story short, Griner is loaded, she doesn’t need two jobs and Cash’s story is a joke. Griner is one of 11 players who has won championships in the WNBA, NCAA, the Olympics and the EuroLeague. She is paid exceedingly well for exhibiting that resume.

Maxson's comparison is deceptive; he (or she) should really be comparing Griner's salary to that of other athletes, not the general population. And is Maxson really saying that Griner earns enough money -- indeed,too much -- and shouldn't be working so hard to try and make more? How socialist.

Maxson also complained that the writer "suggests the Russian war on Ukraine might just make Griner’s situation more perilous. The basketball star could be used as a pawn 'in a fiery feud between two global superpowers' Cash got this idea from the New York Times." He (or she) then summarized the writer's position as "Griner could have avoided jail time in a 'hostile foreign power' if only she was on the same pay scale as LeBron Jame$, letting loose with another sneering retort: "That’s never going to happen because the WNBA is nowhere close to the marketability and the revenue of a major male sports league."

In short: Maxson is taking Russia's side, cheering Griner's arrest by a hostile foreign power to spite women in general and LGBT women in particular.

Maxson used a May 4 post to smear the WNBA as being desperate for attention for caring about Griner, and he (or she) has assumed she is guilty -- despite, again, no evidence to back that up -- and suggests that she deserves everything bad that happens to her because she's not heterosexual and cares about racial justice:

The woke WNBA begins another season Friday, and the league is desperately hyping a Brittney Griner campaign in hopes of attracting some attention. Griner has been detained by Russia since February, when she attempted to enter the country with drugs.

ESPN reports that Griner was detained in Russia since Feb. 17, when customs officials found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. She was allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport, Fox Sports noted.


So that’s the story, and here’s the bottom line. The WNBA is glorifying someone accused of breaking another country’s drug laws. Players who have not violated any such laws will have to actually play to earn their salaries, and they won’t be honored with floor decals.

What’s more is that Griner is a black, married lesbian and a past anthem kneeler – a Black Lives Matter supporter and a social justice warrior extraordinaire. All of which count huge in the WNBA, previously called the most radically woke sports league of all.


The thought of being jailed in a foreign country is scary. However, Griner’s history is one of uncivil behavior and drug use. She is not a model citizen, and for an entire sports league to build a shrine around her is positively ridiculous.

The WNBA ought to be warning its players not to use drugs, and not to try smuggling them into other countries. WNBA TV ratings are horrible, and this is a new attempt by the league to gain some attention. Building a media campaign around an inactive player sitting in a foreign jail is beyond pathetic.

But Maxson suddenly did a flip-flop on Griner in a May 19 post -- but only so that he can quote conservative sports guys attacking the WNBA and the Biden administration for not doing enough to help Griner (even though Maxson was bashing the WNBA just a few weeks earlier for giving attention to her dubious arrest):

The “champions of women’s rights” aren’t all they claim to be, say two conservative writers today. Not when it comes to WNBA super center Britney Griner, who has been locked up in a Russian prison on drug smuggling charges since February. President Joe Biden, the Women’s NBA and the Left aren’t doing enough to help her return to the U.S., the critics charge.

Outkick sports blogger Gary Sheffield, Jr., says, “The WNBA and President Biden have done practically nothing other than slap logos on the court and start hashtags.” All 12 WNBA teams are planning to feature center-court logos of Griner’s initials and her uniform number in the next women’s basketball season.


Sheffield said there would be considerably more action by left-wingers if LeBron James was confined to a Moscow prison cell on charges of possessing hash oil, like Griner is. “The NBA would throw a fit and perhaps cancel games to assure his safety, and that’s probably how leagues should treat their most prized assets,” he claimed.

In 2019, President Donald Trump made sure the black rapper A$AP Rocky got released from prison in Sweden. “Trump took action to release a black rapper from prison, but Joe Biden tweets nice things about minorities — he’ll leave the black WNBA star in Russia, though,” Sheffield wrote.


Griner is a frequent critic of the United States, and [Breitbart and onetime NewsBusters blogger Warner Todd] Huston said that has made the pursuit for her safety “more complicated and polarizing.” The people she perceived as her allies, the so-called champions of women’s rights, have not rushed to her defense. Their inaction prompted the petition, which is merely giving those who signed it an opportunity to feel good about themselves.

A May 27 post by Maxson also took a less-harsh line on Griner so he could bash the Biden administration for allegedly not doing enough to free her:

It’s been 100 days since Brittany Greiner, center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been locked up in a Russian prison on drug charges. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, says President Joe Biden is the deal maker, the go-to man who can get Brittney released.

"There is one person that can go get her, and that's our president," Griner told Angela Rye in an ESPN interview this week. "He has that power. You know, I'm just like, 'Why are we not using it? Like, urgently, use it.' We're expecting him to use his power to get it done."

If President Biden is this fabulous miracle worker, he sure is taking his sweet time living up to that hype. Maybe he’s waiting for just the right time to hatch a genius prisoner exchange, but it hasn’t happened yet.


This administration may impress Cherelle Griner, but the talks are proceeding at a snail’s pace. In fact, Brittney Griner is now beginning her second hundred days in prison.

Note that Maxson doesn't actually mind Griner rotting in a foreign prison on dubious charges for sin of having opinions on issues and not being heterosexual.

Maxson devoted a June 23 screed to ranting that the WNBA was still supporting her:

Wonders never cease in the wide woke world of the Women’s National Basketball Association. While doing time in a Russian prison on drug charges, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner just made the WNBA All-Star Game as an honorary starter. Her initials and uniform number are adorning center court in each of the league’s 12 arena, too.

The 2022 WNBA season began May 6, Griner hasn’t played a single game, allegedly broke Russian law and has been in jail there since Feb. 17. Russian officials recently extended her detainment to July 2. No matter, she is being hailed by her woke American comrades as a heroin [sic].


Once again, merit means nothing to virtue signalers on the far Left. Symbolism trumps substance. A criminal record for a black lesbian athlete is now a badge of honor.

If law breaking is the standard, then it’s not a stretch to assume more honors will be directed Griner’s way. Will woke do-gooders who want to make themselves feel better start piling on the accolades for the 6-foot-9-inch basketball player?

One can’t help but imagine Griner making the woke TV tour: Good Morning America, ESPN, The View and other woke outposts.

Once freed and back in the U.S., will Griner be decorated with the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Will she be selected grand marshal of the Rose Parade?

Which woke corporations will vie for her services as a product spokeswoman?

Why not just name Griner WNBA Player of the Year right now? She’s a perennial all-star, and everyone assumes she’d again be a dominant player in the league again this season. So why not just give her another honor she hasn’t earned by actually playing? Who cares about the grunts actually playing the game right now, spilling their sweat and giving their all? With her arrest record, Griner deserves all the accolades she can read about it in prison.

A July 7 post by Maxson cheered fellow right-wing sports guy Jason Whitlock denigrating Griner as greedy, with a weird detour to the Capitol riot:

Griner is getting what Whitlock describes as a taste of Russian oppression – in “Wokedown Palace.” It’s similar to 19th century America, he said, adding, “We can only hope that when she does return to America, she’ll muster the courage to sing this country’s praises.”


Whitlock says he has more sympathy for the late Ashli Babbitt and the incarcerated January 6 protesters than he has for Brittney Griner. Making an American citizen a political prisoner is exactly what his schoolteachers told him Russia does.
The Capitol insurrectionists committed crimes, and Babbitt was a domestic terrorist in the midst of committing a felony inside the Capitol when a law enforcement officer determined she was a clear and present threat and shot her. Maxson seems as eager as Whitlock to justify the criminality of people who aren't black lesbians.

Maxson also touted Whitlock whining that Griner worked too hard by playing in Russia: "'She’ll go anywhere and say anything for the paycheck,' Whitlock wrote. 'Dissatisfied with her WNBA salary, Griner traveled to Russia to earn her millions. There’s a cost to the global agenda – a loss of American rights, customs, and freedom.'"Maxson and Whitlock didn't explain why it's a bad thing for Griner to work where she gets paid better, or why she should be forced to settle for an insufficient WNBA paycheck.

Later that day, when Griner pleaded guilty in a Russian courtroom, Maxson rushed to gloat:

The Biden Administration is eating crow after WNBA all-star and vape smuggler Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday in a Russian court. In May, the Biden Administration declared the Phoenix Mercury center and U.S. Olympic basketball champion is being “wrongfully detained.”

The towering, 6-foot-9-inch Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport for attempting to board a plane while carrying drugs. "I'd like to plead guilty, your honor,” she said Thursday in court. “But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law."

The U.S. government might want to walk back its “wrongfully detained” statement issued this spring. With her guilty plea Thursday, Griner certainly didn’t take that approach in her appearance before the judge.


Griner is due back in court July 14, and if her lawyers are smart, they’ll drop the “wrongfully detained” and “role model” hooey.

Maxson clearly doesn't believe a black non-heterosexual can or should be a "role model." Maxson omitted the part from the Fox News article on the plea to which he linked where a Russia expert called the charges against Griner a "sham."

Maxson continued to be obsessed with Griner's race and sexual orientation in a July 20 post complaining that the Espy Awards gave her attention:

ESPN’s annual ESPY awards show tonight will maintain their woke tradition by honoring admitted law-breaker Brittney Griner, a black, lesbian pro basketball player. In case you haven’t paid attention to the barrage of headlines on this WNBA basketball player, she’s been in a Russian jail since February and recently pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis while attempting to board a plane in Moscow.

Woke media have gone to ridiculous lengths the past few months maintaining that – somehow – the lesbian Griner is a victim of American marginalization of female athletes and LGBT people and was forced to play basketball in Russia to make extra money during the WNBA’s offseason.


Griner’s behavior was reckless and illegal. Yet she’s become a cause célèbre to the wide woke world of sports. The WNBA features “BG42” decals on all of its team’s courts this season. The woke league also named her an honorary all-star starter for this season. If this all sounds like over-the-top star treatment for a wrongdoer, it is.

The U.S. government is attempting to secure Griner’s release with a potential prisoner swap. Meanwhile, the left-stream media jostle with each other to see who can use her story to score the most pathetic virtue signaling points. ESPN will score hollow points in that regard tonight.

It's as if Maxson is motivated by an irrational hatred of black lesbian women rather than any sense of justice.

Maxson couldn't stop attacking Griner for trying to earn more money, however. He (or she) used a July 26 post to lash out at sportswriter Stephen A. Crockett Jr. for making the logical point that Griner would not have to play overseas if she made more here:

After bitterly complaining about hatred for black athletes, Crockett returns to the script: the so-called economic disparity between men’s and women’s sports. Females are forced to eat mystery meat sandwiches, and Stephen Curry makes $471,000 more per game than the WNBA’s annual average salary. Tennis star Roger Federer’s worth is $550 million, and Serena’s is a pathetic $260 million.

Blinded by race, Crockett never comes close to the painful truth of the matter.

Women’s sports do not generate the wealth that men’s sports do, and that’s because far fewer Americans attend women’s athletics or watch them on television. It took decades before a woman could dunk a basketball. Michael Jordan, Hank Aaron, Carl Lewis and Tom Brady were all crushing it in their respective sports, and there’s never been a female athlete or team who could approach their level of play.


The Left can moan all it wants about hatred for black women, but the facts and figures reveal that Americans realistically view women’s sports as minor league when compared to men’s athletics. With no hatred of black women involved.

Maxson, of course, has made his (or her) hatred of Griner as a black lesbian athlete all too clear.

Mark Finkelstein repeated the same talking point in a July 30 post, declaring that "the disparity between Griner's salary and that of NBA stars is a function of the free market at work":

Per this article, in a recent year, the NBA generated $7.4 billion in revenue. The WNBA generated. . .. $60 million. That's a ratio of 123:1.

Per the same article, the average WNBA salary is $71,635. Applying that 123:1 ratio, the average NBA salary would be $8,881,105. But, in fact, NBA players are paid $6.4 million on average. So by that metric, it could be said that it is the NBA players who are underpaid!

WNBA rosters have 12 players. If the players on just one team were paid the $6.4 million NBA average, it would more than wipe out the earnings of the entire league!

Along similar lines, NBA games in 2021-2022 averaged over 3 million viewers. WNBA games in a recent year averaged 205,000 viewers. And the NBA plays more than five times more games than the WNBA. So the total viewership is even more lopsided.

Neither Maxson nor Finkelstein explained why, exactly, Griner should be satisfied making paltry sums in the WNBA and playing basketball elsewhere is somehow too ambitious.

Fretting over Russian athletes

By contrast, Maxson's fellow MRC sports blogger, John Simmons, was fretting about the allegedly shabby treatment given to Russian athletes after that country's invasion of Ukraine.

Simmons started writing about the Russian war on Ukraine the right way, with a Feb. 22 post cheering European soccer officials for pulling a tournament final out of St. Petersburg -- though he couldn't resist getting in a needless partisan dig, sneering that moving it "would be more nerve than President Biden had when he had the choice to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics, but chose not to." That was followed by a Feb. 28 post on how "more and more Ukrainian athletes have chosen to take up arms to defend their homeland, then a March 3 post on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich deciding to sell his Chelsea soccer team in Britain.

Since then, however, Simmons' focus has been on how unfair it allegedly is that Russian athletes have been barred from competing in various world events. He lamented in a March 8 post:

The ostracism of a Russian presence from sports leagues continues.

On Monday, the NHL announced they cut ties with the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), a professional hockey league based in Russia, making it nearly impossible for the NHL to sign anyone playing in that league.


Unfortunately, Russian businesses have not been the only ones to suffer because their globally ambitious government decided to launch an invasion.

At the start of the 2021-2022 NHL season, five percent of all players on opening day rosters were Russian. That's not a lot, but it seems many of these athletes have received an unjust amount of abuse and ridicule in recent weeks.

Thanks to the invasion, Russian and Belarusian-born hockey players who play in both the NHL and other professional and amateur leagues in North America have received numerous discriminatory comments based solely on their origin.

Simmons tried to walk a fine line on the issue:

While the sports world was right to remove numerous international competitions from taking place in Russia, this level of hatred towards the players specifically is way out of line. The majority of these players and organizations (like the KHL) do not support Putin’s actions and have no power over their leaders or what they decide to do. As long as they do not post “Down With Ukraine” messages on social media or say anything that would imply that they are happy with what is going on, they should not receive this level of hatred.

The day after, though, Simmons cheered former NHL star Jaromir Jagr for raising money to help Ukrainian victims of the war. On March 10, though, he was back to lamenting that the Chelsea soccer team was facing sanctions due to Abramovich's ownership:

So basically, a soccer team that had nothing to do with Abramovich's potentially shady business dealings or status within Russia now has their traveling funds slashed, their revenue stream strangled, and the ability to keep their players under contract stripped from them. This begs a question: how much of this is a serious attempt to hold Putin and his cronies to account and how much is simple cancel culture?

In this particular case, no one within the Chelsea organization has supported the war or condoned Russia’s actions, and yet everyone in Chelsea’s camp is suffering major consequences -- right down to the fans.

Well, yes, shady dealings tend to have a lot of collateral damage involving innocent people. Simmons whined some more about collateral damage in a March 18 post:

The future of Russian soccer just took a massive blow.

Russia had been suspended and prevented from competing in World Cup qualifiers, and the nation appealed and pleaded for FIFA’s (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) ban to be removed. But on Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) denied Russia’s request,meaning that Russia will still be suspended.


Just like the economic sanctions placed on Premier League team Chelsea F.C., it's difficult to know if these measures are really all that effective in holding Vladimir Putin accountable. Most Russian athletes have not supported Putin, so punishing the players and sports teams who have nothing to do with him seems like an overreach.

Simmons' whining on behalf of Russian athletes continued in an April 20 post:

Apparently, the sports world still has a thing for banning Russian athletes from competitions.

Wimbledon announced that Russian and Belarusian tennis athletes will not be allowed to compete in the iconic tournament, but those same athletes can compete in the French Open as neutral athletes.

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships. It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022," the All England Club said in a statement.

The desire to hold Russia accountable for their actions is noble, but punishing athletes that have nothing to do with the war seems to be a miscalculation of what will solve the problem.

Simmons groused some more about the decision in a post the next day:

Wimbledon's senseless decision to ban Russian athletes from the iconic tournament has drawn lots of backlash from the tennis community at large.

Novak Djokovic, who knows a thing or two about being on the receiving end of stupid decisions from governing tennis bodies, blasted the decision as "crazy."


Nearly all Russian athletes across sports have said they do not support any actions from the Russian government involving the invasion of Ukraine, and are being treated unfairly for something they are not involved in. No athlete, regardless of the country, should be held to that standard.

Yes, Simmons still thinks that it was a "stupid decision" to bar a selfish unvaccinated athlete from playing a tournament in the middle of a disease surge that wash killing hundreds of people a day during a raging pandemic.

The complaining continued in an April 26 post about how Wimbledon decided to let unvaccinated athletes like Djokovic play but not Russian athletes: "Logic would suggest that you should not hold athletes who have nothing to do with a major conflict accountable for a country’s decision. But then again, logic is in short supply these days." Logic would also suggest that athletes who choose to remain affiliated with a warmongering authoritarian leader should have to feel the consequences of that decision, but that seems lacking on Simmons' side.

Simmons was at it again in an April 29 post:

At least one tennis player is disgusted with Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian athletes from this summer’s tournament.

Victoria Azarenka, who at one point in her career was the No. 1 tennis player in the world, wants the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to protest and combat the ban.

"If you are asking me if I agree with Wimbledon or see their reasoning after being on a personal call with them, I don't see their reasoning,” Azarenka said. “It does not make sense and it does not connect to what they are saying. I have made my stance very clear on the issue. I will never, ever support war.”

Azarenka gets it. It’s not like any Russian or Belarusian tennis player is a sellout for Vladimir Putin and his political actions, so it doesn’t make sense that anyone born in those countries should have to face this wacky form of punishment.

Simmons didn't mention that Azarenka is from Belarus.

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