CNN’s Bash blames pay gap for Griner arrest, claims player wouldn’t have been in Russia if WNBA paid like NBA

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CNN anchor and chief political correspondent Dana Bash argued that the WNBA’s low salary, compared to that of NBA players, may have been a factor in the sentencing of WNBA player Brittney Griner to nine years in a Russian prison.

Bash insisted that if it weren’t for the pay gap, Griner wouldn’t have needed to play in Russia to generate revenue for the league. Thus, she would never have been arrested for having vapor cartridges for cannabis oil at an airport in Moscow.

After pleading guilty to drug possession and drug trafficking of cannabis oil last month, Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison by a Russian court. Griner was fined the equivalent of $16,400 in Russian rubles in addition to the sentence.

During a Thursday CNN segment discussing the latest news, anchor Dana Bash found a way to hammer home the wealth gap between male and female basketball players in relation to Griner’s incarceration.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendant's cage before a hearing during her trial on drug-trafficking charges in Khimki, outside Moscow, on August 2, 2022. - Griner was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in February 2022, days before Moscow.  launched its offensive in Ukraine.  She was charged with drug trafficking for possessing cannabis oil vape cartridges.  Griner spoke at the July 27 trial that she still did not know how the cartridges ended up in her bag.  (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendant’s cage before a hearing during her trial on drug-trafficking charges in Khimki, outside Moscow, on August 2, 2022. – Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February 2022, days before Moscow. launched its offensive in Ukraine. She was charged with drug trafficking for possessing cannabis oil vape cartridges. Griner spoke at the July 27 trial that she still did not know how the cartridges ended up in her bag. (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Bash, seeking comment from her guest, told CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan, “I’m wondering what your thoughts are, and while you’re answering that, I just want to inject one thing here, which is why Brittney Griner and other women are in Russia playing basketball because they don’t get paid anywhere near what the men get paid in the US.”

“And that’s just what they do,” Bash confirmed.

Brennan fully supported the theory, replying, “Exactly, Dana.” She then explained, “Brittney Griner’s salary — the top salary in the WNBA — is about $230,000, $240,000. With bonuses, you can bump it up another couple of hundred thousand.”

She compared those salaries to the highest NBA salary, which she claimed is “over $40 million.”

“So hundreds of thousands for the women, and $40 million—obviously the high range for the NBA—for the men. So yeah, they go overseas. They play, it’s not just Russia, it’s China, it’s Spain, it’s Italy , it’s Turkey, and it’s where they can supplement their wages,” Brenna said. She added, “And that’s what Brittney Griner did.”

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted into a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki District Court, just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 15, 2022. Griner was arrested in February in the Russian capital's Sheremetyevo- airport when customs officers said they found vape containers of cannabis oil in her luggage.  She has been in prison since then and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.  (AP Photo/Jim Heintz)

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted into a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki District Court, just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 15, 2022. Griner was arrested in February in the Russian capital’s Sheremetyevo- airport when customs officers said they found vape containers of cannabis oil in her luggage. She has been in prison since then and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Jim Heintz)

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Speaking to CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in another segment of the show, Bash asked, “Let’s get this straight, how much of this is because she’s a 6’9″, black, lesbian American?” The reporter responded that Griner being American might well have enhanced her sentence, though she argued that her race and gender affecting her sentence are “up for debate.”

Regardless of what external factors may or may not have contributed to the severity of the WNBA star’s prison sentence, the US State Department has deemed Griner “wrongfully detained” by Russia. President Joe Biden has echoed the same sentiment, calling her arrest “unacceptable.”

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FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner takes a break on the court during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Seattle Storm, Sept. 3, 2019, in Phoenix.

FILE – Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner takes a break on the court during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Seattle Storm, Sept. 3, 2019, in Phoenix.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

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