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Brittney Griner Writes President Joe Biden Seeking Help 

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVAFP
Credit : KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

By Dorothy J. Gentry
Sports Editor

Brittney Griner recently wrote a letter directly to President Joe Biden and the White House pleading for their help in freeing her from Russia.

The WNBA star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained since early February in a Moscow airport reportedly over drug charges. Griner, a nine-year WNBA veteran, has played for the Russian women’s professional basketball team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the past seven years during the league’s off-season.

Representatives of the 31-year-old Griner released excerpts of the reportedly handwritten letter on Monday, July 4, per ESPN’s T.J. Quinn. 

Below are excerpts of the letter: 

“I’m terrified I might be here forever…I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other detainees…Please do all you can to bring us home.”

“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those men who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” another excerpt read. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this yearas 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, I’m terrified I might be here forever.”

“I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”

Per ESPN’s Quinn, Griner’s representative said they would not release the entire letter or detail how it got to the White House. Since her detention, Griner has been allowed to send and receive monitored notes to friends and family through her Russian attorneys.

Per reports, the White House National Security Council confirmed the White House has received Griner’s letter.

“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home.”

Griner’s trial began on Friday, July 1 with her appearance in court and is scheduled to continue Thursday. She is charged with trying to smuggle hashish oil into Russia. 

Per reports, Griner has not entered a plea but there is talk that she may plead guilty, knowing that Russian officials would require an admission of guilt as part of any deal to send her home.

House of Representatives Pass Resolution

In addition to playing in the WNBA and overseas, Griner competes as part of Team USA Women’s Basketball and won gold medals in the 2016 and 2021 Olympics. Like most WNBA players, she plays basketball overseas in the offseason, most recently in Russia.

Since being detained she has received an outpouring of support from teammates, athletes of other sports, entertainment personalities and various government officials advocating for her release. 

Last month the House of Representatives yesterday passed H.Res. 1132, Rep. Greg Stanton’s bipartisan resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release Griner and expressing support for efforts made by the U.S. government to secure her release.

“Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking of Brittney and working to get her home,” said Stanton. “We will continue to push for her release and make sure that she is not forgotten.”

“I’m grateful for this overwhelming show of support from Congress. We need to be doing all we can to keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and finally put an end to this nightmare,” said Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife.

“This resolution sends a clear message: securing Brittney’s release must be the highest priority of the U.S. Government, and we know the American people support every effort made to bring her home,” said Terri Carmichael Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.

Stanton introduced the resolution last month with Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Colin Allred of Texas. Griner grew up in Houston, Texas and graduated from Baylor University.

In May the U.S. Department of State released a statement saying they considered Griner to be wrongfully detained by the Russian Federation, which means the Department, led by the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, will seek to negotiate her release.

WNBA Honors Griner 

The WNBA are using their 26th season to “acknowledge the importance” of Griner to the league. Griner’s initials and jersey number (#42) are featured along the sideline of all 12 WNBA courts.

The Mercury, Griner’s team for nine years, has been granted both roster and salary cap relief so that it can carry a replacement player until Griner, who will be paid her full salary, returns home and is ready to get back on the court. 

The league has also named Griner as an honorary All-Star for the 2022 season and she will be honored at this weekend’s All-Star activities in Chicago.

Additionally, every WNBA market will support “BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive,” which is in partnership with the Phoenix Rescue Mission. Griner founded the initiative in 2016 to support the homeless population.

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