Brittney Griner Calls on Fans to Fight for Detainees Overseas
WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared at the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards on Saturday where she called on fans to “keep fighting” for the Americans who remain imprisoned in Russia.
“It feels so good to be here, especially with my beautiful, amazing wife and with all of y’all here today,” Griner said in a speech. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was honored at the NAACP Image Awards for being a Black queer woman who has overcome adversity.
“I want to thank everyone and let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas,” Griner added in one of her rare public speaking engagements following her release from a penal colony in Russia last year.
Griner was arrested at Moscow Airport on Feb. 17, 2022, after customs officials allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage. She traveled to Russia to play in the off-season but was ultimately convicted on drug smuggling charges and sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony. President Biden successfully negotiated her release in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Griner returned to the U.S. in December.
As we reported previously, the Biden Administration attempted to secure Griner’s release along with Paul Whelan who remains imprisoned in the country. Whelan is a former American marine who has been detained in Russia for four years. President Biden previously noted that Russia declined to release Whelan as officials are handling his case differently.
When Grier arrived back in the U.S., she penned a handwritten letter to her Instagram followers asking them to advocate for Whelan’s safe return home.
“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months,” Griner wrote at the time. “You took time to show me you cared, and I want to personally take the time to write to you and say that your effort mattered.”
The Phoenix Mercury center thanked those who sent her encouraging and supportive letters during her detainment and hopes the same support will be given to Whelan and other families who remain imprisoned in Russia.
“My family is whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together,” she wrote. “However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained.”
Griner explained, “Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the #WeAreBG campaign to bring me home, and it’s our turn to support them. I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”