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Brittney Griner is Still Detained in Russia Prison

Eight-time WNBA All-Star Brittany Griner wrote a handwritten letter to President Biden, asking him for his help to bring her and other American detainees' home. 

According to CNN, in a statement released by the communications company representing the Griner family. She writes, “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, I'm terrified I might be here forever." 

Griner, 31, who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has played overseas in the offseason for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia since 2015. Upon returning to Moscow on February 17, 2022, Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport after the Federal Security Service claimed she was carrying vaporizer cartridges containing hashish oil, (possession of cannabis, Marijuana). 

The White House received Griner’s letter this past Monday and she adds, "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. 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. 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," Griner wrote to Biden. 

The White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on July 5 that Biden has read the letter. She says the white house is going to use every tool they can to bring Griner home. 

It was smart of Griner to write a letter to the President. Her writing a personalized letter means that she is struggling, she’s had enough of being stuck in prison/custody and is in desperate need of wanting to leave. More than five months have passed since Griner was arrested and detained in February, she needs the world’s assistance to be released and returned to the U.S., her wife, and her family. 

"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," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement to CNN. 

Griner went on trial in Moscow on July 1, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, and has an uphill battle to have her criminal case acquitted in Moscow under a legal system that only acquits less than 1% of defendants on average. 

She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon supplies to Ukraine. 

In May 2022, the state department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively the U.S. government’s chief negotiator. That move drew additional attention to Griner’s case, with supporters encouraging a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy. 

Biden is facing increasing pressure to assist Griner, who has been held in custody in Russia for more than 139 days. Nearly 1,200 prominent Black women signed a letter this week urging Biden to "make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly and safely and to meet with Brittney’s wife Cherelle immediately." 1,200 women of all ages and professions signed the letter. Win With Black Women, a collective of intergenerational and intersectional Black women across the nation, created the work.    

Signers of the letter included Bernice King, CEO of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.; Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association; and Dawn Staley, basketball Hall of Famer, three-time Olympic gold medalist and head coach of South Carolina Gamecocks. (I wish I could have signed that letter) 

On July 6, Biden spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner on the phone, and read her a letter that he plans to send to Griner while she remains detained in Russia. The White House would not disclose what he wrote, but Vice President Kamala Harris was also on the call. Whatever Biden wrote in the letter, I feel it’s only right for him to let her know that he’s doing everything in his power to release her. 

Additionally, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard has criticized the U.S. response to Griner's detainment, arguing if Griner were a male athlete like NBA star LeBron James, she would be back home. Nygaard then said Biden calling Cherelle Griner was "fantastic news" in an interview on MSNBC. 

I would have to agree with Vanessa Nygaard. If LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, or any well-known male NBA star got arrested, they would have returned home immediately. They would not be detained, not be held in prison, or go on trial. They would have sent all of them home without a doubt. 

Holding Brittney Griner in custody for this long is awful. I couldn’t imagine being there for so many months and not speaking to my loved ones. I heard about her situation and decided to read and write about it. She is in custody, and it’s a shame Russia is treating a Black woman like this. Biden, the white house, and every other supporter out there must come together to bring Brittney Griner back home where she is safe and loved. (Nbclosangeles has the timeline of events leading to her arrest and after.) 


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