On the anniversary of Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison, ESPN shared that Olympic athlete and WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner will be working with both ESPN Films and Disney to produce a documentary about her story. Griner was detained in Russia in March 2022 for being in possession of cannabis vape cartridges, but after many months of suffering in prison, was eventually released by December 2022.
“The last two years have been the most harrowing, transformative and illuminating period of my life, and I am grateful to be in a place now to share my story with the world,” Griner said. “I’m proud to partner with ESPN and Disney to share this very personal story because of its incredible potential to inspire hope around the world and their proven ability to do just that.”
Griner’s ongoing imprisonment was constantly in the headlines, with frequent updates about her case, including incomplete translations by her Russian/English translator, pleading and being found guilty in court, and being sent to a penal colony in an unknown location. Support came from many sources, such as LeBron James, Dennis Rodman, and President Joe Biden, but few were as prominent as Brittney’s wife, Cherelle. “Throughout BG’s detainment and in the time since, ESPN, ABC and Disney were supportive and caring in regards to the human side of this saga,” Cherelle Griner said. “Love and family were at the center of the fight to get BG home, and with that in mind, there is no better, more trusted partner to tell that story with us.”
ESPN described the story as a scripted series that will be developed by ABC Signature, and will also include an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, and Jon Leibman, Chairman and CEO of Brillstein Entertainment Partners, are executive producers on the project. In a press release, the project was also described as using “exclusive footage and rare archival material” to tell the story.
“Brittney is an exceptional athlete whose hardship and resilience are nothing short of extraordinary,” said Burke Magnus, president, Content, ESPN. “We are thrilled to be working with her to tell the nuances of her story and feel confident that this documentary will captivate audiences everywhere.”
“BG is a hero—across sport, culture, and humanity. We are privileged to serve as a part of her life’s storytelling journey, and to partner with her and Cherelle to bring Brittney’s legacy to audiences worldwide. Through Disney, ABC, and ESPN’s, global wide-ranging TV and film platform, Brittney’s story can be realized and experienced both creatively and realistically.”
“We are honored that Brittney has entrusted us to share her story of hope, faith and determination across our platforms,” said Debra O’Connell, president, Networks and Television Business Operations, Disney Entertainment. “Her unwavering perseverance that helped shape her as an athlete has now influenced her leadership as a human rights advocate.”
There’s no release date for the project at this time, or how prevalent the topic of cannabis will be approached, but she is expected to talk about “her advocacy for the release of other wrongful detainees.”
Marc Fogel, now 62 years old, is another U.S. citizen currently detained in Russia for cannabis possession, having originally been arrested in August 2021. The most recent news reports of Fogel’s imprisonment are from this summer, where Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester petitioned Biden for Fogel’s release. “One of the key differences between Brittney Griner and Mark Fogle’s cases is that less than three months after Griner’s arrest, the State Department classified her as wrongfully detained. Fogle deserves the same justice. And we should be using every tool at our disposal to bring him home,” Daines said, according to the Billings Gazette. “I’ve had the privilege of getting to know some of Mark’s family, some of whom are Montanans. They have been fierce advocates here stateside. But they fear they will never see their brother’s face again, or hear their father’s voice, and we can’t let that happen.”
It’s incredibly important to emphasize that “wrongful detainees” exist both abroad but also here in our own country. There are numerous U.S. prisoners serving sentences for cannabis convictions, a fact that was recently covered by Last Prisoner Project in its State of Cannabis Justice Report. “Justice is not achieved through mere legalization alone but by undoing the harms caused by cannabis prohibition,” Last Prisoner Project announced in October. “Twenty-four states have enacted cannabis-specific record clearance laws, and ten states have enacted cannabis-specific resentencing laws. Our report allows the public to compare, contrast, and learn more about each state’s effort to ameliorate the consequences of cannabis conviction.”
The study covered a large amount of data about prohibition, and a breakdown of each U.S. state’s legalization policies, pardon policies, and an overall grade. Only two states, California and Minnesota, received an A grade, while New Mexico, Maryland, and New York, received a B+. The states that received an F grade included South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, and Wisconsin.
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