Her face is on hoodies. Her name is in hashtags. Her “B.G.” and number are on fans’ jerseys and W.N.B.A. courts.
Because the Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner waits in Russia, detained since Feb. 17 on drug charges, symbols of support for her are throughout. They arrive from individuals who don’t know her in any respect and other people who know and love her — from teammates, sympathizers and former coaches.
Dawn Staley, who coached Griner and her U.S. teammates to a gold medal within the Tokyo Olympics last yr, said she thinks about her day-after-day.
“I do know Brittney, I’ve been round her, know her heart. I do know what she’s about,” Staley said. “And if she’s being wrongfully detained or not, I could be advocating for her release because no one needs to be in another country locked up abroad.”
Staley has posted messages on Twitter about Griner day-after-day since early May. “Are you able to please free our friend,” she wrote on Tuesday, tagging the official account for the White House. She added, “All of her family members would sleep a bit of easier.”
It has been greater than three months since Griner was detained, accused of getting hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. But only in the previous couple of weeks has there been a coordinated public campaign by W.N.B.A. players and by Griner’s wife, family, friends and agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, to push for her release. That’s where the hoodies — worn by many different players — and the initials — displayed on W.N.B.A. courts — are available in. The #WeAreBG hashtag seen on warm-up shirts and social media can be a part of the campaign.
On Saturday, the W.N.B.A. players’ union posted messaging on social media marking the a centesimal day of Griner’s detention.
“Griner’s reclassification as wrongfully detained by the U.S. government cued our shift to the more public activist elements of our strategy,” Kagawa Colas said, adding that she couldn’t elaborate out of respect for the sensitivity of the situation.
Supporters have quickly joined in the brand new approach.
“We’re more public,” said Terri Jackson, the manager director of the W.N.B.A. players’ union. One reason, she said, was the State Department’s determination, and one other was the guidance of Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner.
“She’s lead on this,” Jackson said. “She signaled through her team that she needed us, and that’s all we wanted to listen to.”
Cherelle Griner appeared on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday and appealed to President Biden to intervene.
“I just keep hearing that he has the ability,” Cherelle Griner said. “She’s a political pawn. In the event that they’re holding her because they need you to do something, then I need you to do it.”
The State Department’s announcement this month said that Biden’s special envoy for hostage affairs would lead an interagency team to secure Griner’s release. But since then, Griner’s detention has been prolonged until June 18, and the Biden administration has said little about its maneuvering. Cherelle Griner said throughout the television interview that her only communication along with her wife had been through occasional letters. She said she had been told that her wife’s release was a top priority, but she expressed skepticism.
Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, has been speaking publicly about Brittney Griner’s detention and dealing along with her representatives. He said Griner, who’s from Houston, has had access to her attorney in Russia but has not been capable of speak along with her family. That violated international norms, he said.
“The Russians must be aware that we all know what they’re doing, we all know why they’re doing it and there might be consequences if anything should occur to her,” Allred said.
Griner’s family and friends have sought to pressure Russia and Biden while also pleading for more support and news coverage in america.
“There’s not enough conversations being had about Brittney and her release and just any talks of it,” said Staley, the ladies’s basketball coach on the University of South Carolina. “And I do know there’s a process. I get that.”
She added later: “There’s so many folks that really know Brittney that aren’t doing anything, that aren’t sympathizing with the situation. I just want people to feel prefer it’s their loved one. And if you feel prefer it’s your beloved you’d do anything to assist. Everybody’s got to live their life, I get that, but come on. Empathize.”
Several players within the W.N.B.A., and just a few within the N.B.A., have begun publicly advocating Griner’s release; in the primary two and a half months after Griner’s detention most had said only that they loved and missed her.
Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, who was named the league’s most beneficial player in 2018, posts every day on Twitter about Griner. DeWanna Bonner, who plays for the Connecticut Sun and was Griner’s teammate in Phoenix from 2013 to 2019, brought up Griner during a recent news conference.
“Yet another thing,” she said. “Free B.G. We’re B.G. We love B.G. Free her.”
In mid-May, the W.N.B.A. players’ union became an official partner on a Change.org petition addressed to the White House, which urged Biden to do “whatever is needed” to bring Griner home safely. The petition was began in March by Tamryn Spruill, a contract journalist who has written for several media outlets, including The Recent York Times, in regards to the W.N.B.A. Griner’s representatives at Wasserman promoted the petition to news outlets.
In an interview with ESPN on May 17, N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver was asked what role the league should play in Griner’s situation. The N.B.A. owns 42.1 percent of the W.N.B.A.
What to Know About Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia
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Why was she in Russia? Griner was in Russia playing for a global team throughout the W.N.B.A. off-season. Trading rest for overseas competition is common among the many league’s players for a lot of reasons, but often the largest motivation is money.
Does this have anything to do with Ukraine? Griner’s detention comes during an inflamed standoff between Russia and america over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nevertheless it remains to be unclear whether Russia may need targeted Griner as leverage against america.
How is america approaching the situation? In March, U.S. officials were finally capable of see Griner and said she is doing well. Weeks later, the State Department subsequently said that it had determined she was “wrongfully detained,” adding that an interagency team would work to have her released.
Silver said the N.B.A. had “an enormous responsibility” to Griner but that it had been muted in its support on the recommendation of experts who thought amplifying her situation could hinder her release. “Having said that,” Silver said, “there’s an unlimited role for the general public to play through protest or letting their representatives know the way badly, how strongly they feel about this.”
Last week, three House Democrats introduced a resolution calling for Griner’s immediate release.
“It sends a transparent message that the representatives of the American people support bringing Brittney home as quickly as possible,” said Representative Greg Stanton of Arizona, who introduced the resolution with Allred and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.
Fans on social media and at games have been vocal and urgent of their pleas for months, and have expressed frustration toward Griner’s camp for its initial strategy of silence. A few of Griner’s closer supporters have had similar sentiments but didn’t at all times feel they may speak out publicly.
Jackson, from the players’ union, said the unique directive not to talk out about Griner was difficult for W.N.B.A. players, who’re known for his or her advocacy for L.G.B.T.Q. rights, gender equity and social justice, particularly for girls of color.
“It was perhaps very different for us to get our arms across the notion that we needed to be a bit of bit more patient, not so quick to be vocal, to actually put within the time,” Jackson said.
Along with following Cherelle Griner’s wishes, the players’ union sought counsel from Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a Ph.D. student within the history department on the University of Pennsylvania, whose areas of study include African American experiences within the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Russia.
“Now that she’s been detained for therefore long,” St. Julian-Varnon said, “I believe it’s appropriate to get into that second phase of: ‘OK, we’ve given Russia months. You’ve released Trevor Reed. So, let’s pick up the pressure and show that we’ve not forgotten about her and that she remains to be very much wanted at home.’”
Reed, a former Marine, was released as a part of a prisoner swap in April after having been held in Russia since 2019 on assault charges.
In an interview with CNN broadcast last Sunday, Reed said media coverage of his case had helped result in his release.
Staley said she recorded Reed talking about his detention so she could rewatch for clues about what could help Griner.
“Trevor’s saying you’ve got to scream at the highest of your lungs. You’ve gotten to get a gathering with the president,” Staley said. She added: “Should you can get in front of him, it’s hard for him to inform you no. It’s hard for him to look right into a grieving parent or wife’s eyes and say, ‘I can’t do anything.’”
Because she won a national championship with South Carolina this yr, Staley and her team are more likely to be invited to the White House to fulfill with Biden soon.
“I’ll give Brittney’s wife, parents, family, I’ll give them our visit to the White House,” she said.