In February, Russian officials arrested American WNBA star Brittney Griner at a Moscow airport on cannabis possession charges. Since then, authorities have extended Griner’s detention four times. And there have been mounting calls for the US gov to bring her home. Especially amid concerns that Russia’s using Griner as a political pawn.
Griner is a 31-year-old, seven-time WNBA All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury. And a two-time Olympic Gold medalist with Team USA. Since 2015, Griner’s played for the Russian basketball club UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA’s offseason. Note: About half of the WNBA’s 144 athletes play overseas during the offseason. Why? Because stars like Griner can bank quadruple the amount they earn at home. It’s a problem the NBA doesn’t have. And this past winter, more than a dozen WNBA players took their talents to Ukraine and Russia. Including Griner.
Brittney Griner wrote a letter on Monday to President Joe Biden, reminding him and his government that they have “forgotten” her and other American detainees held in Russia.
Griner sent Biden’s letter to Washington through her agents. Although most of the contents were kept private, Griner representatives did share some.
“As I sit here alone with my thoughts in a Russian jail, without the protection of my family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments I have, I’m afraid I might be here forever,” wrote the WNBA star.
“On the Fourth of July, my family honors those who served our freedom, including my dad, a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts to think about how I celebrate this day because freedom is something entirely different for me this year.
Griner begged Biden to use his presidency powers to secure her return. In February, she was arrested for bringing in vape cartridges containing cannabis oils through a Moscow airport.
“Please do everything you can to help us return home. I voted in 2020 for the first time and voted for you. I believe in you. You can do so much with my freedom. “I miss my wife!” I miss my family! My teammates are my family! It hurts me to see how they are feeling right now. “I am grateful to you for doing whatever you can to help me get home.”
The White House National Security Council confirmed that Griner’s letter was received by the White House.
Adrienne Watson, an NSC spokeswoman, stated Monday that Brittney Griner is being wrongfully held by the Russian Federation. “President Biden has made it clear that all U.S. citizens wrongly detained abroad or held hostage are to be released. This includes Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues its aggressive efforts to bring Brittney Griner home, using all available means.
“Please help us get home. My family is my team. It hurts to see how they feel right now.
Griner’s letter was confirmed by the White House National Security Council.
Griner is in the middle of a trial that began Friday to determine her fate. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted and, unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.
If she is convicted, she could spend up to 10 years in prison.