In a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, WNBA star Brittney Griner expressed her worry that she may be jailed in Russia permanently and asked with the President not to forget about her and other American inmates.
“(As) I sit here in a Russian jail, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any achievements, I’m frightened I could stay here forever,” she wrote, according to a statement sent by the Griner family’s communications firm.
Griner, 31, was detained on February 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, during the WNBA’s vacation. Russian officials said she had cannabis oil in her suitcase and charged her with importing large volumes of a narcotic drug, a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail. On Friday, she faced drug smuggling allegations in a court outside Moscow.
Griner’s supporters and US authorities claim she was unlawfully imprisoned and have urged for her release as concerns grow that she is being exploited as a political pawn in the midst of escalating tensions between Russia and the US.
According to the communications firm, Griner’s letter to Biden was sent to the White House on Monday morning. According to the statement, three parts from the letter were made public, while the remainder was kept secret.
“On July 4th, my family traditionally commemorates the service of those who fought for our country, especially my father, a Vietnam War veteran. It stings to think about how I typically enjoy this day since this year, freedom means something entirely different to me “Griner sent a letter to Biden.
“I understand you have a lot on your plate, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. In 2020, I voted for the first time, and I voted for you. I have faith in you. I still have so much good to accomplish with my independence, which you may assist in restoring. I’m missing my wife! I’m missing my family! I really miss my colleagues! It breaks my heart to know how much they are going through right now. I appreciate everything you can do right now to bring me home.”
According to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden has reviewed the handwritten note. “We’re going to utilize whatever tool we have” to get Griner home, she continued. On Monday, the White House stated that “the Russian Federation is illegally holding Brittney Griner.”
“President Biden has said unequivocally that any American citizens who are being held hostage or unlawfully incarcerated overseas, including Brittney Griner, must be freed. The US administration is still working hard to get her home, utilizing all possible means “Adrienne Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said CNN.
“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 “have spoken several times with Brittney’s wife in recent weeks, and the White House is closely coordinating with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, teammates, and support network.”
Cherelle Griner, Griner’s wife, told CNN last week that she wants US authorities to do everything it takes to bring the basketball hero home – and she wants to see them do more. Cherelle Griner sat in the Phoenix Mercury locker room and asked for greater action in the sole interview she gave on the eve of her wife’s trial in Russia.
“It’s quite tough. This is not a case when the rhetoric matches the action “She said. “Unfortunately, I have to press individuals to ensure that what they say matches what they do, and this has been the most difficult thing to balance since I can’t let up. BG has been missing for nearly 130 days.”
The US House of Representatives approved a bipartisan resolution last month demanding that the Russian government immediately free the WNBA star. “There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t thinking about Brittney and striving to bring her home,” said Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona, who sponsored the resolution. “We will keep pushing for her freedom and making sure she is not forgotten.”
Stanton was formerly the mayor of Phoenix, where Griner is a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Stanton introduced the resolution in May, along with Texas Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Colin Allred. “I appreciate Congress’s overwhelming display of support. We must do everything possible to keep Brittney’s situation in the spotlight and put an end to this horror “Cherelle Griner stated at the time in a statement.
Vanessa Nygaard, the Phoenix Mercury’s first-year head coach, responded to Griner’s letter at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday prior of her team’s game against the Sparks.
“It made me weep simply hearing her remarks about her father being a Vietnam vet, her new perspective on freedom, her want to be with her family and colleagues, and her uncertainty about if she’ll ever be free again. Hearing those words from such a beloved person on our day of freedom… It’s fantastic, and it’s fantastic that she was able to get that message to us, and hopefully some people are paying attention to it. Of course, the Biden administration and our State Department putting that at the forefront of their messaging would be fantastic for us “said Nygaard.
The Phoenix Mercury stated last week that a special public event in favor of Griner would be place at the Footprint Center on Wednesday. Cherelle Griner will be a prominent speaker at the event, which is being co-hosted with Stanton’s office.