Imprisoned Griner receives support from USA Basketball teammates

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A’ja Wilson wishes she and her USA Basketball teammates could do more to help Brittney Griner right now.

They’ve all tried not to say anything that could potentially hurt the WNBA star’s case as she remains imprisoned in Russia over drug allegations, but they also want Griner and his family to know they care. she.

“We’re not talking about BG the basketball player, we’re talking about BG the wife, the daughter, the sister the human being,” Wilson, the 2020 WNBA MVP, said Friday at USA Basketball training camp.

“That’s what matters to me. I get silence and you don’t want to talk about it. I can’t even imagine putting myself in this situation. It’s hard,” she said.

Griner, one of several stars playing in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested after arriving at Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of his luggage revealed vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis-derived oil, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The 6-foot-9 center Phoenix Mercury was returning home after the Russian League took a break for the FIBA ​​World Cup Qualifier. The two-time Olympic gold medalist recently had her detention extended until mid-May.

“I hope everyone is doing the right thing to make sure she gets home safely,” Wilson said. “This is going to be the top priority for all of us. I know it’s hard and difficult.

Players had discussions about how best to help Griner within their community. WNBA players have been very cohesive in the past when rallying around issues such as voter registration or the Black Lives Matters movement.

For the first few weeks after Griner was detained, it was decided that it was clearly better for them to say less. This has changed over the past few days as players have been more available and willing to talk.

“I can guarantee you, this group here and the women of the WNBA, we won’t forget Brittney Griner,” USA basketball coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Brittney is not here, we will do what she would have done. She is very philanthropic. Try honoring him that way until the highest level of government can fix this.

Breanna Stewart has stepped up to help The Phoenix Rescue Mission, a charity that Griner has long been involved with.

“While BG is away, I wanted to support her and her charitable efforts and do what I could from an extrajudicial perspective to help her and her family,” Stewart said.

Griner’s legal team has been quietly seeking his release and has refused to discuss the case since his arrest was made public.

Of the thousands of U.S. citizens arrested and imprisoned in prisons overseas, a small subset are designated by the U.S. government as wrongfully detained – a category that grants their cases an extra level of government attention and places them under the auspices of the Presidential Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department. The US government has yet to classify Griner’s case in this category.

Griner is not the only American detained in Russia. Navy veteran Trevor Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 for assaulting police officers in Moscow. And Michigan corporate security chief Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges his family and the US government say are false. US officials have publicly called on Moscow to release them.

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