San Francisco, CA – A San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) investigator is under an internal affairs investigation after a local reporter complained to the department about a meme he posted about WNBA player Brittney Griner.
Mission Local reporter Eleni Balakrishnan wrote an article on Thursday pointing out that SFPD Investigator Ernie Ferrando posted a meme mocking Griner.
Griner was arrested in Russia on Feb. 17 for bringing marijuana vape cartridges into the country.
The center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury has maintained that she made “an honest mistake” because she was packing in a hurry when she brought vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis that her attorneys have said she used to treat pain.
Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charge in July.
On Aug. 4, a Russian judge convicted the 31-year-old Griner of drug possession and drug smuggling, FOX News reported.
She was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison and fined one million rubles, which is about $16,400 in U.S. dollars.
There is speculation that Griner received a harsher sentence due to tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Russia has been requesting the U.S. release convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner, according to CBS sports.
Prior to her arrest, Griner had sparked controversy for protesting the national anthem at WNBA games.
“I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season,” Griner said in a 2020 interview with the Arizona Republic. “I think we should take that much of a stand.”
“I don’t mean that in any disrespect to our country. My dad was in Vietnam and a law officer for 30 years. I wanted to be a cop before basketball. I do have pride for my country,” Griner said.
“I’m going to protest regardless,” Griner stated in her interview. “I’m not going to be out there for the national anthem. If the league continues to want to play it, that’s fine. It will be all season long, I’ll not be out there. I feel like more are going to probably do the same thing. I can only speak for myself.”
Following her conviction, right-wing influencers were quick to point out her anthem protest.
On the bright side, B Griner won’t have to endure our National Anthem for 9 whole years! What a win for her!— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) August 5, 2022
Brittney Griner said she didn't like hearing our National Anthem! pic.twitter.com/DkXqIiD7qX— Nick Adams (@NickAdamsinUSA) August 8, 2022
I wonder if Brittney Griner stands or takes a knee for the Russian national anthem every morning in her jail cell… 🤔— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) August 6, 2022
Former President Donald Trump has spoken out against the potential prisoner exchange which could see Bout freed in exchange for Griner.
“She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it,” the former president said on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show. “It certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade, does it?”
“[Bout is] absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s going to be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs,” Trump added.
“They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now, we’re supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people,” Trump concluded.
Investigator Ferrando later posted the meme about Griner on his personal Facebook account.
The meme features the words “How it started….” above an image on the left of Griner playing basketball with her quote, “I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem.” There is an image on the right that says “How it’s going……” showing a Photoshopped image of Griner in a Russian prison cell singing The Star-Spangled Banner.
Ferrando posted the meme with the blurb, “Hmmmm.”
A retired SFPD veteran named Jim Pera replied to the meme saying, “She can rot over there forever as far as I’m concerned.”
Ferrando replied, “absolutely !!!!” with a U.S. flag emoji.
Ferrando had retired from the SFPD in 2010 at the rank of Lieutenant but returned in 2013 as a background investigator for new police hires. His current role as a background investigator is a part-time, non-sworn position.
Balakrishnan, the reporter who first reported on the meme, contacted Jesus Gabriel Yanez, a community social worker who sits on the San Francisco Police Commission.
“Just the sentiment behind it is despicable, honestly,” Yanez told Balakrishnan. “There are more than just undertones of bias and racism.”
The police commission doesn’t have the authority to review alleged violations of the department’s social media policy.
Balakrishnan contacted Ferrando on the phone who said, “I guess the First Amendment doesn’t apply, but whatever. I don’t know why it’s me — so much stuff is on Facebook — why all of a sudden I’ve been targeted.”
Ferrando did not return a request for comment from The Police Tribune.
When Balakrishnan contacted former Police Commissioner Bill Ong Hing he said that the comment was in bad taste but not necessarily a code of conduct violation.
“There’s nothing wrong with a police officer agreeing that somebody should go to jail,” Hing said.
According to KTVU, the SFPD released a statement on Thursday which said, “While the views expressed by Ernest Ferrando on his personal social media account do not reflect those of the San Francisco Police Department, we respect his right to express his opinion. Mr. Ferrando is a retired San Francisco police officer. He currently serves as a part-time, at-will, civilian employee with the department. The SFPD Internal Affairs Division has opened an investigation into this matter.”