Former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said those arguing that the U.S. government should do more to gain the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russia could actually be hurting her chances for freedom.
Abdul-Jabbar made his comments in a blog post on Tuesday.
"Anyone who knows anything about my life knows that I'm not shy about publicly speaking out when it comes to something I consider an injustice," he said. "I've been doing it for 55 years — with mixed results.
"One lesson I learned over the years is to measure what I want to say with how much closer those words will bring about my goal. Taking a stance shouldn't be about me putting my outrage on display, but about achieving measurable positive change to the injustice.
"I want to make things better, not worse. But it's not always easy to know the difference.
"Especially in the case WNBA star Brittney Griner."
Griner, who has played in Russia during off seasons since 2014, was arrested on Feb. 17 at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after vape cartridges containing hashish oil were allegedly discovered in her baggage, Reuters reported.
"I'm sure there are those out there who think the government ought to send in a 'Mission: Impossible' squad with latex Putin masks and cool laser gadgets to spring her," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "The rest of us are looking for more practical solutions. But choosing the best solution has resulted in a lot of online bickering and backlash among Griner's supporters that has gone viral. Especially between NBA players LeBron James and Enes Kanter Freedom.
"Which begs the question: Despite massive celebrity and public outcry on behalf of Brittney Griner, are we helping or hurting her chances for freedom?"
Abdul-Jabbar cited some general examples where demands for the U.S. government to help might work.
"If a social rights activist is being imprisoned in Selma for protesting or there's a shady police shooting of an unarmed Black person in New York, then such celebrity calls to action might be effective," he wrote.
“That's because we live in a country where those in power need votes and sometimes shining a spotlight on them can bring pressure. But when we demand our country negotiate Griner's release right now regardless of the cost, that only strengthens Russia's negotiating position.
"Imagine being in a room negotiating with someone while outside the people you represent are shouting, 'Give them whatever they want!' "
Abdul-Jabbar maintained that Griner's supporters, including himself, should join to put pressure on Russia — whereas the United States should not.
"Everyone supporting Brittney Griner has their hearts in the right place," he wrote. "Good people, one and all. But heart alone isn't effective in bringing about her release, and by publicly pressuring the U.S. government, we may be inadvertently delaying her release."
Jeffrey Rodack ✉
Jeffrey Rodack, who has nearly a half century in news as a senior editor and city editor for national and local publications, has covered politics for Newsmax for nearly seven years.
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