WNBA’s Brittney Griner wears Nirvana jersey behind bars in Russia

WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner wore a Nirvana t-shirt inside the defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Khimki, Russia, just outside Moscow, on Friday July 15th.

Griner, a WNBA Phoenix Mercury champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested by Russian customs in February after cartridges of hash oil, a substance illegal in Russia, were found in her luggage .

See photos of Griner in the Nirvana shirt below.

The basketball player had traveled to Russia to join the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason, according to The New York Times and ESPN. Griner’s trial in Russia began July 1. She pleaded guilty in court the following week, but added, “There was no intent. I didn’t mean to break the law,” according to The Washington Post.

Natalia Kolesnikova, Getty Images

Natalia Kolesnikova, Getty Images

Griner’s lawyers say she had mistakenly transported the drugs to Russia. They also say she had a medical prescription for the cannabis derivative to deal with her chronic pain issues. The 31-year-old athlete has been detained in Russia for almost five months.

What is a defendant cage?

A defendant’s cage restrains a defendant inside a courthouse. The bars of the cage resemble those of a standard prison cell. But its use may be unknown to some.

“The use of cages has largely declined over time, but it persists to some extent around the world – places like Russia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kuwait, Iraq and the United States. ‘Egypt,” NPR said.

It’s also occasionally for “particularly violent criminals” in Spain, Italy, France and Germany, according to Jenia Iontcheva Turner, a professor at SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas.

Besides being behind bars in court, Griner’s presence in Russia is made more complicated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Natalia Kolesnikova, Getty Images

Natalia Kolesnikova, Getty Images

Put on a ‘Smiley Face’ Nirvana

The particular Nirvana design that Griner sported on his t-shirt is also shrouded in controversy.

The classic Nirvana “Smiley Face” design, as seen on its modern tie-dye version of the shirt, shows off the recognizable smiling graphic that amounts to a legal entanglement between the disbanded grunge act and a designer who claims to have created the emblem.

In January, Nirvana LLC, the controlling company of the late Kurt Cobain-led group, denied designer Robert Fisher’s claim that he created the logo, KNX reported.

In 2018, Nirvana sued luxury fashion brand Marc Jacobs for creating a “blatant scam” of its “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection emblem.

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Elizabeth J. Harless