Imprisoned WNBA star and two-time Olympian Brittney Griner celebrated her 32nd birthday in a Russian prison this week. But her legal team shared a message from Griner that acknowledged the messages of support she’s received.
“Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me,” Griner said in a statement released by her lawyers. They met with her in jail on Oct. 18, her birthday.
They did also acknowledge that Griner found the day difficult, as would be expected.
“Not only is this her birthday in jail away from her family, teammates, and friends, but she is very stressed in anticipation of the appeal hearing,” one of her Russian lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, said.
Griner’s appeal of her nine-year sentence for bringing vape cartridges with trace amounts of hashish oil will be heard on Tuesday, Oct. 25. If the appeal is denied, Griner faces doing her time in a Russian labor camp, which are notorious for their poor conditions.
The Biden administration considers Griner “wrongfully detained” and is working on a prisoner swap to bring her and another American detainee, Paul Whelan, back to the U.S. Whelan, a former Marine, was convicted of spying in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years. Though they have offered convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently imprisoned in the U.S., the administration says that Russia’s counter-proposal was not viable.
Griner is “very strong,” Blagovolina said, but that “of course a difficult day for her, you can imagine because she is all alone in a jail in a foreign country.”
Griner was a trending topic on social media on her birthday with present and past coaches, WBNA teammates, and even NBA stars Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and the Memphis Grizzlies sharing messages of support.
At the ring ceremony celebrating the Golden State Warriors 2022 NBA championship, Curry said, “We want to continue to use our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community. Brittney Griner’s birthday is today, she’s 32,” he said to a packed house at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
“We want to continue to let her name be known and we pray … it’s been 243 days since she was wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon, that everybody’s doing their part to get her home.”
Brooklyn Nets star Irving, an avid social justice advocate and a Vice-President of the NBA Player’s Association spoke before the Brooklyn Nets home opener on Wednesday.
He told the crowd, “I appreciate us being here to share this floor together, all of us as brothers but the big picture, that’s going on in the world is free our sister, Brittney Griner. Please, please POTUS do your job, everybody do your job. Please bring our sister home.”
The Memphis Grizzlies showed their love with specially designed sweatshirts to pay tribute and show they stand behind Griner.
Tennis legend and women’s sports advocate Billie Jean King also tweeted her support.
And Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, made it clear they are hoping for the star’s return as soon as possible.
“Over the past eight months, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, care, and concern for Brittney and her family,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said in a statement.
“The compassion and unity we see in favor of doing what is necessary to rescue Americans reveals the best in us, as Americans and as global citizens. Each of us, regardless of our differences, can imagine the pain of being separated from our family for over 200 days. Our commitment to bring BG home is urgent and unwavering, and it is fueled by a hope that every family can have their loved ones close.”
Through her agency, Wasserman, Colas shared a way for fans to send emails to Griner via the website WeareBG.com. They will be curated and provided to her lawyers so she can see them, the agency says.