Brittney Griner partners with campaign to help detained American hostages abroad

Apr 29, 2023, 7:10 AM

Brittney Griner is joined by Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs to reveal a mural supporting Bring Our Famili...

Brittney Griner is joined by Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs to reveal a mural supporting Bring Our Families Home. (Colton Krolak/KTAR News)

(Colton Krolak/KTAR News)

Brittney Griner’s return to the basketball spotlight on Thursday also included a commitment to help others sharing the same experience she endured as a wrongfully detained American.

The Phoenix Mercury and Griner announced a partnership with Bring our Families Home (BOFH), a campaign formed last year to help wrongful detainees and American hostages abroad.

The group aims to shine the spotlight on the issues to raise awareness. They began that Thursday by unveiling a mural on the west side of Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix.

Later this year, the Mercury’s website will create a section educating fans about the issue, including news about the organization’s efforts. Fans can visit to learn more now.

“Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention educated our organization, fan base and the Valley about the plight of hostages around the world and their families here at home,” Mercury president Vince Kozar said in a release. “We learned that, outside personal safety, the biggest fear is being forgotten and we know those currently being held do not automatically have the same public platform or receive the same media attention Brittney’s case did.

“While we can’t fix that on our own, we intend to be a part of the solution, using the platform that we have to bring attention to these individuals throughout the 2023 WNBA season and beyond. We are grateful to Neda and Bring Our Families Home for their willingness to partner with us.”

A BOFH logo will appear on the Mercury’s home court, replacing the BG42 mark that was present last season as Griner was held in Russian custody.

Griner returned to the spotlight at a news conference on Thursday, an event attended by roughly 200 people inside the lobby of the Footprint Center.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and members of the Mercury organization gave the WNBA star a standing ovation as she appeared from behind a banner and climbed onto the riser.

“Different than a basketball press conference today,” said Griner, “A LOT of media in here today.”

Griner gained international attention in February 2022, when she was arrested after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

After months of negotiations between Washington and Moscow, Griner was exchanged in the United Arab Emirates for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on Dec. 8. Griner is returning to the WNBA but won’t be playing abroad again, unless it’s with Team USA.

“I’m never playing overseas again,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said Thursday. “The only time I would want to would be to represent the USA.”

Griner’s new normal also will include working with Bring Our Families Home.

Griner said her team has been in touch with the family of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who’s being detained in Russia on espionage charges.

“No one should be in any of the conditions that I went through or they’re going through,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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