A handwritten letter from Brittney Griner was handed over to the White House on the morning of July 4th, according to the Griner family, which supplied excerpts to reporters. In the letter, the imprisoned WNBA star implored the president not to forget her and expressed that her already deep appreciation for Independence Day had acquired a new meaning this year.
“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” wrote Griner, who has been detained in Russia since mid-February. “On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Griner, whose trial began last week, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after Russia alleged she had cannabis oil in her luggage. A Russian judge issued an order for Griner, the Phoenix Mercury center who played in Russia during the WNBA offseason, to remain in custody for the duration of the trial.
The United States claimed Griner was wrongfully detained. The White House said on July 6th that bringing Griner home was a “priority” and said it was “closely coordinating” with a special presidential envoy dealing with hostage cases.
“You saw the work that his administration did to bring home Trevor Reed, that is the same work, the same focus that we did and put behind bringing Trevor Reed home, we’re going to do the same with Brittney Griner and others,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Griner specifically noted in the letter that she voted for Biden in 2020, which was the first time she had voted. “I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” she wrote.
While there are supporters who favor a prisoner exchange, Griner’s detention and trial comes at a low point in US-Russian relations in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner. President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means — to bring her home,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson declared in a statement on July 4th. “The President’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and family made no further comment on the letter.
Many Americans have spoken out against Griner, hoping she stays in Russia and suggesting that she hates America over her past remarks. This could also be the most attention the WNBA has ever received considering it’s not popular and has very little audience.