The fight to bring a legend home. WNBA star Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody since February 2022, and plenty of her fellow athletes are leading the charge to get her back to the United States.
Ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals in June 2022, the Boston Celtics wore T-shirts reading “WE ARE BG” during practice. “The shirts were super important not only showing our support for our sister that is detained over in Russia, Brittney Griner, we just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have throughout not only the NBA but the WNBA,” player Grant Williams told ESPN of the team’s decision to wear the shirts. “She’s been a vital part of the WNBA over years past, college and in the amount of impact she’s had on young female athletes, USA and overseas.”
LeBron James also called for swifter action on the Olympic gold medalist’s case, sharing a social media post from his Uninterrupted platform encouraging President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to keep pushing for Griner’s return.
“We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!!” the Space Jam: A New Legacy star tweeted in June 2022. “Our voice as athletes is stronger together.”
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 while she was in the country playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season. Russian authorities claimed that the athlete was carrying hashish oil in her luggage. News of her arrest and subsequent detention, however, did not emerge for several weeks.
U.S. officials were initially hesitant to make any aggressive moves on behalf of Griner because of Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, but in May 2022, the State Department declared that the Phoenix Mercury player had been “wrongfully detained.” This status change meant that officials could immediately begin negotiating for her release rather than waiting until her next Russian court hearing.
That same month, Griner’s detention was extended until at least mid-June 2022. In the meantime, the Texas native has been communicating with her friends and family via letters. “She jokes in her letters. I don’t know how she does it with what she’s going through,” Amanda Zahui B., a player for the Los Angeles Sparks, told the Associated Press of keeping in touch with her colleague. “She’s an amazing soul. She brings light in a situation like this. I don’t think a lot of people could manage to do that.”
The ESPY winner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has also been offering her support from afar, speaking to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about the case. “You say she’s top priority, but I wanna see it, and I feel like to see it would be me seeing BG on U.S. soil,” Cherelle told Good Morning America in May 2022.
The Baylor University alum added that her wife was only playing in Russia because WNBA salaries are not lucrative enough to support their family. It is common for many WNBA players to go overseas in the off-season to supplement their income.
“BG would wholeheartedly love to not go overseas,” Cherelle explained. “She has only had one Thanksgiving in the States in nine years since she’s been pro, and she misses all that stuff. Just because, you know, she can’t make enough money in the WNBA, like, to sustain her life.”
Keep scrolling for more details on Brittney’s case: