Brittney Griner is getting ‘written communication’ from loved ones while detained in Russia
US basketball star Brittney Griner is receiving “written communication” from loved ones, but she still hasn’t heard their voices since being detained in Russia.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player was detained in February at a Moscow airport on so-called drug charges and has been held for more than 100 days. The Phoenix Mercury star had recently played for Moscow team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, which she had done for seven years.
Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas has told CNN that the out basketball star can receive “sporadic” written correspondence from loved ones and people in the sporting world. But Colas shared that the 31-year-old has not “heard her wife or family’s voice” for over three months.
“While sporadic, written communication from her wife, family, friends and global sport community has been a source of comfort for BG [Brittney Griner] during her wrongful detainment, going without real time, regular contact with loved ones is inhumane,” Colas said.
Colas said it was “clear” that Griner is “being used as a political pawn” and called on president Joe Biden to “do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely”.
Griner reportedly has been getting hard copies of letters from family and friends, a source with knowledge of the arrangement told CNN. Emails to Griner are printed out by her attorneys and submitted through the Russian mail system at the detention centre.
Hundreds of emails have been sent by WNBA players to an email account Colas set up to allow them to communicate with her, ESPN reported.
Griner doesn’t have access to the account, but she is reportedly able to respond to the messages by writing out what she wants to say so her lawyers can take a photo of it. If she doesn’t have any paper, she can dictate her response.
Los Angeles Sparks forward Amanda Zahui B sent Griner an email a few months ago and has continued to write to the two-time Olympic gold medalist as she remains behind bars.
“When she responded to my second letter, it blew me away,” Zahui B said. “I was like, ‘She responded!!’ In my third letter, I was like, ‘Hey best friend, we are officially best friends now’.”
Brittney Griner has been locked away in a Russian jail after vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly found in her luggage while she was travelling through an airport near Moscow.
Reports of her detention were made public knowledge in March, weeks after her arrest on 17 February.
Following her initial arrest, Russian Federal Customs Services released a statement confirming that the basketball star had been detained for possession of the vape cartridges. A video showing airport security workers searching the luggage of a passenger, who was later identified as Brittney Griner, was also released by Russian authorities.
She faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted.
In May, a Russian court extended Griner’s pre-trial detention until 18 June, according to Russian state news agency TASS as reported by CNN.
The US state department has classified Griner as wrongfully detained, and her case is being handled by the office of the US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs (SPEHA). The SPEHA office coordinates the government’s diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
The WNBA has continued to pay tribute to Griner by installing floor decals on every home court featuring the out player’s initials and jersey number, 42.
Members of the Boston Celtics used their platform at the National Basketball Association (NBA) title series to demand Griner’s safe return home.
Several NBA players work black shirts with “We Are BG” emblazoned on the front in orange letters for their practice session at the finals on Saturday (5 June). Game two of the title series between the Celtics and Golden State Warriors is on Sunday (6 June).
#FreeBrittneyGriner ? https://t.co/NilQSP8giS pic.twitter.com/6tw5S3dwAL
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 4, 2022
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, who is also an officer within the National Basketball Players Association, said the group felt it was a good idea to use “our platforms to bring attention to certain matters”.
“I always stand for that. Being an athlete, we’re not just up here just to entertain you guys,” Brown said.
He continued: “We also have a voice. I always appreciate and applaud athletes, entertainers, my teammates who plan to do something with that.
“I’m not sure if we’ll wear it for the rest of the time, but today was a good day to bring attention to a topic that was necessary.”
All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum said it was “extremely tough” to see what Brittney Griner has been going through.
“I know everybody sees and feels that, and obviously we’re all together in support trying to bring her back to her family and things like that,” Tatum added. “Yeah, wearing those shirts today in support of her.”
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