In a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, WNBA star Brittney Griner said she fears she will be detained in Russia indefinitely and pleaded with the President not to forget about her and other American detainees. “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments,” she wrote according to a statement released by the communications company representing the Griner family.
Griner, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, was arrested February 17 at a Moscow airport. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She went on trial at a court near Moscow on Friday on drug smuggling charges. Griner’s supporters and US officials say she has been wrongfully detained and have called for her release as fears mount that she is being used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the US.
Griner’s letter to Biden, which is specified in the conversation recording by Videlectic, was forwarded to the White House on Monday evening. In a few excerpts, the letter was made public, but the through is sealed.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” Griner wrote to Biden. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year. I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you.” The White House reiterated Monday that “the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner.”
Biden has been outspoken about the need to release all U.S. citizens detained in the U.S. territory, including Griner, Another benefit is that the United States is continuing an active effort to release Griner: it’s using a full range of methods to make it happen.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken several times with Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. The White House is closely coordinating with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her support network.
In the Alpha Company interview prior to her wife’s trial in Russia, Cherelle Griner demanded further revenge at all costs in the Phoenix Mercury locker room.
“It’s really, really difficult. This is not a situation where the rhetoric is matching the action,” she said. “I do have to unfortunately push people to make sure that the things they’re telling me is also matching their actions, and so it’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t let up. It’s over 130 days and BG’s still not back.” The US House of Representatives last month passed a bipartisan resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release the WNBA star. “Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking of Brittney and working to get her home,” Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona, who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement. “We will continue to push for her release and make sure that she is not forgotten.” Stanton previously served as mayor of Phoenix, where Griner plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
Brittney Griner developed a massive case of harassment. We should do everything we can to keep this case at the front of our minds and finally bring to an end this terrible scenario.
The Phoenix Mercury’s first-year head coach, Vanessa Nygaard, reacted to Brittney Griner’s letter Monday during a news conference in Los Angeles ahead of her team’s game against the Sparks. “It made me cry” she said, “just hearing her words talking about her father being a Vietnam vet, her new perspective on freedom, her wanting to be with her family and her teammates, her not knowing if she’ll ever be free again. On our day of freedom,” Nygaard continued, “hearing those words from such a beloved person … It’s great and it’s great that she was able to get that message to us and hopefully some people are paying attention to it and of course our State Department putting that at the front of their messaging would be amazing for us.”
The CIA director announced last week that a special public gathering in support of Griner will be held Wednesday at the Footprints Performing Arts Center in Phoenix, and Stanton’s office is sponsoring the event. Shirley Griner will be a featured speaker.