Brittney Griner faces Russian justice 2:23
(WABNEWS) — WNBA star Brittney Griner, in a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, said she fears being detained in Russia indefinitely and pleaded with the president not to forget about her and other American detainees.
“(While) I am here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified that I will be here forever,” she wrote, according to a statement issued by the communications company that represents the Griner family.RELATED
Griner, 31, who played in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities claimed that she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling significant quantities of a narcotic substance, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She went on trial in a court near Moscow on Friday on drug smuggling charges.
Griner’s supporters and US officials say she has been unfairly detained and have called for her release as fears grow that she is being used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the United States.
Griner’s letter to Biden, according to the communications company’s statement, was delivered on Monday morning at the White House. Three excerpts from the letter were made public, while the rest are being kept private, according to the statement.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War. It pains me to think about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something else entirely.” for me this year,” Griner wrote to Biden.
“I realize you’re dealing with a lot, but don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do everything 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 a lot of 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 that they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for everything whatever I can do right now to get me home.
The White House reiterated Monday that “the Russian Federation is unfairly detaining Brittney Griner.”
“President Biden has been clear about the need to see free all American citizens who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, including Brittney Griner. The United States government continues to work aggressively, using every means available, to bring her home,” Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement to WABNEWS.
“The President’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family,” Watson said, adding that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “spoke multiple times with the family.” Brittney’s wife in recent weeks and the White House is coordinating closely with the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, teammates and support network.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, he told WABNEWS last week that he wants American officials to do whatever it takes to bring the basketball legend home, and he needs to see them do more.
In her only interview on the eve of her wife’s trial in Russia, Cherelle Griner sat in the Phoenix Mercury team locker room and called for more action.
“It’s very, very difficult. This is not a situation where rhetoric matches action,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have to push people to make sure that the things they say to me also match their actions, so that’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t rest. It’s over 130 days and BG still hasn’t came 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’re not thinking about Brittney and working to bring her home,” Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona, who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement. “We will continue to press for her release and make sure she is not forgotten.”
Stanton previously served as mayor of Phoenix, where Brittney Griner plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
Stanton introduced the resolution in May along with Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Colin Allred of Griner’s home state of Texas.
“I am grateful for this overwhelming show of support from Congress. We need to do everything we can to keep Brittney’s case front and center and finally put an end to this nightmare,” Cherelle Griner said in a statement at the time.
Vanessa Nygaard, the first-year head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, reacted to Griner’s letter Monday during a news conference in Los Angeles before her team’s game against the Sparks.
“It brought me to tears, you know, just hearing her words about her father being a Vietnam vet, her new perspective on freedom, her desire to be with her family and her teammates, not knowing if any once again she will be free. On our day of freedom, to hear those words from someone so dear to us… It’s great, and it’s great that she was able to get that message across to us and hopefully some people are paying attention to it and of course, For the Biden administration and our State Department to put that at the forefront of their messaging would be awesome for us,” Nygaard said.
With reporting from WABNEWS’s Abby Phillip, Steve Almasy, Homero De la Fuente, Rachel Janfaza, Maegan Vazquez and Jill Martin.