Athletes, politicians keep spotlight on Brittney Griner on her birthday
Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner remains in a Russian prison on drug possession charges Tuesday, her 243rd day in custody.
The day marks Griner’s 32nd birthday, as well as the opening day for the NBA.
With that, Griner remains at the forefront of people’s minds. Griner was trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning, and ESPN’s basketball show, NBA Today, dedicated time to her story.
Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but testified that she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.
On Tuesday, players from the WNBA, athletes from other sports, politicians and more made sure Griner’s situation remains in the spotlight.
“I can’t even imagine having to spend my birthday in prison when you thought you would be here at home,” Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “I hope our fans, Mercury fans and our community keep praying for her.”
Today, Brittney Griner turns 32.
She will spend her birthday in a Russian prison, where she has been unlawfully detained for 8 months.
Let’s continue to advocate for her release and bring her home.#WeAreBG
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) October 18, 2022
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 19, 2022
Happy Birthday @brittneygriner. Your absence is felt every single day that you’re not back with your family. Let’s get her back soon!
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) October 18, 2022
— Avery Braxton (@Brax_Avery) October 18, 2022
Today, Brittney Griner turns 32 while wrongfully detained in Russia.
We won’t stop fighting for your safe return. #FreeBrittneyGriner
— Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (@SenatorWarnock) October 18, 2022
Baylor women’s basketball coach Nicki Collen on Brittney Griner, who celebrates her 32nd birthday today in a Russian prison:
“BG’s family. She’s Baylor family. She’s a big part of our legacy of Baylor women’s basketball. For us, it’s just continuing to advocate to get her home.”
— Lia Assimakopoulos (@Lassimak) October 18, 2022
#FreeBrittneyGriner 243 days (and the birthday) of my sister and friend @brittneygriner has been wrongfully detained in a Russian prison. Praying to you Lord to give BG the light she needs to get thru the days. HAPPY 32nd BG! Love you! #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/lziW8Q9q74
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) October 18, 2022
Her smile. Her personality. Her joy. This is who Brittney Griner is 💜 pic.twitter.com/D7YRtTTC4R
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) October 18, 2022
Happy Birthday @brittneygriner ! You’re absence is felt everyday that you are not here, but today we come together to celebrate you. We love you BG, and we will not stop until you are home! pic.twitter.com/imJo8xWRvv
— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) October 18, 2022
Griner’s February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner, recognized as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, was returning to Russia, where she played during the U.S. league’s offseason.
A Russian court in the first week of October set Oct. 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.
The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.
Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.
Reflecting the growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to bring Griner home, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the “merchant of death.”
The White House said it has not yet received a productive response from Russia to the offer.