As Brittney Griner’s Russian trial begins, the WNBA All-Star is using the only outlet she has to communicate with President Biden. She wrote a letter, which was passed on to the White House through the communications company that represents Griner’s family.
According to CNN, the handwritten letter was delivered to the White House on Monday, July 4, with the two-time Olympic gold medalist citing her family’s military service history and how they usually honor the country on the holiday. The communications company released three excerpts publicly but maintained that the rest of the letter would stay private, along with details on how the letter got from Griner to the White House.
Brittney Griner’s letter to the White House reads in part:
“I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.
“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.
“I realize 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. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
The WNBA champion has been wrongfully detained in Russia since Feb. 17. Police stopped her at a Moscow airport claiming they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. The opening day of Griner’s trial revealed the alleged amount to be 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams. Even if we can believe the Russian government’s accounts of the situation, that amount is definitely not worth 10 years in prison, which is what Griner is facing for attempted drug smuggling.
In response to the letter, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told CNN, “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.”
Watson also noted that national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “have spoken several times with Brittney’s wife in recent weeks and the White House is closely coordinating with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her support network.”
Per ESPN, Russian state news is reporting on discussions of the seven-time WNBA All-Star being traded for “Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence for financing terrorism.” With the next day of Griner’s trial set for July 7, the sports network is citing sources that say the Phoenix Mercury center may plead guilty, “knowing that Russian officials would require an admission of guilt as part of any deal to send her home.”
Brittney’s status as a high-profile queer Black woman combined with the increased media attention of her case and the strained relations between Russia and the United States makes this an extremely tense situation. We can only hope Brittney comes home before things get even more politically dangerous.