WNBA coach says Brittney Griner would have been brought home ‘if she was LeBron’

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow

Brittney Griner would have been brought home almost immediately if “she as LeBron”, her Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) coach has claimed.

Brittney, the American WNBA star, has been detained in Russia since February. She has endured months in prison and faces the threat of years more.

Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard told reporters on Tuesday (5 July) that things would have been a lot different had Brittney been a straight man.

“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” she said of LeBron James, the towering NBA player, according to SportsNaut.

“It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person.

“All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”

Brittney has gone from a celebrated athlete to a political pawn. The two-time Olympic gold medalist went to Russia to play basketball, only to be accused of carrying into the country vape cartridges with traces of cannabis oil.

Given Russia’s harsh drug laws, Brittney faces up to 10 years in a penal colony if she is convicted.

Brittney Griner’s wife says the WNBA All-Star is ‘terrified’ as she remains detained in Russia. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty)

Her trial will resume on Thursday after kicking off the week before. Legal experts, however, do not expect her to be found innocent.

And even if Brittney is found to be innocent, Russia’s judiciary system allows for acquittals to be overturned – a chip the Russian authorities may be keen to play.

For months, Brittney’s family, teammates and fans have had little information about how she is fairing. As she is a Black lesbian in a country that has banned so-called “gay propaganda”, many fear the worse more than 130 days into her imprisonment.

Unable to make phone calls, Brittney is only allowed to write letters, often to her wife, Cherelle Griner.

“She’s trying to always be my strong person so she’s telling me she’s OK,” Cherelle told SiriusXM radio show Keepin’ It Real 1 July. “Every second that goes by, BG is struggling – she is a human. She’s struggling. She’s there, terrified. She’s there, alone.”

Cherelle has criticised the White House for not doing enough to secure Brittney’s release. In May, the US State Department determined Brittney had been “wrongfully detained” to pave a way for officials to negotiate her release.

Until then, all Brittney can do is write.

“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she wrote in a letter to president Joe Biden on Monday.

“I realise you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”