Incarcerated WNBA star Brittney Griner appealed directly to US President Joe Biden for her freedom in a handwritten letter that her representatives said was delivered to the White House Monday morning.
“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” said an excerpt shared by Griner’s representatives to The Guardian. “I realize you’re dealing with so much, but don’t forget me and the other American inmates. Please do everything you can to bring us home.”
Griner, one of America’s most decorated women’s basketball players, was detained by Russian Federal Customs in February after discovering vaping cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Her trial began on Friday and there is widespread speculation that Moscow could use Griner to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody.
The letter, calling for US Independence Day, also mentioned her father’s service with the US Marine Corps, including two missions in Vietnam.
“On July 4, our family normally honors the service of those men who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran,” read another excerpt. “It hurts to think how I usually celebrate this day, because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
A Griner representative said the entire letter to Biden was kept private and her wife, Cherelle, was not available for comment.
Last month, Cherelle Griner told CNN that despite their best intentions, not enough is being done by American diplomats.
“I don’t think the maximum amount of effort is being put in because again, the rhetoric and the actions don’t match,” she said in an interview.
Another section of the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s letter read: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified. I am here forever.”
Griner also wrote that she voted for Biden in the most recent presidential election.
“I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you,” another excerpt read. “I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help me recover. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It pains me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for everything you can do right now to get me home.”
The White House reiterated Monday that “the Russian Federation is wrongly detaining Brittney Griner”.
“President Biden has been clear about the need to see the release of all U.S. citizens who are being held hostage or wrongly held abroad, including Brittney Griner. The US government continues to work aggressively — by all means available — to bring her home,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “The president’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family.”
Griner, 31, who led the Phoenix Mercury to the franchise’s third-ever title in 2014 and a surprising return to the WNBA final in October, also played for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season since 2015 and helped the Russian club to three domestic titles and EuroLeague Women’s Championships in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard responded to Griner’s letter Monday during a press conference ahead of Phoenix’s game against the LA Sparks.
“It made me cry, you know, just hearing her words about her dad who is a vet in Vietnam, her new outlook on freedom, her desire to be with her family and her teammates, that she doesn’t know if she will ever be free again. ‘ said Nygaard. “On our day of freedom, hearing those words from such a beloved person… It’s wonderful, and it’s wonderful that she was able to get that message across to us and hopefully some people will pay attention to it.”