Boston Celtics players wore “WE ARE BG” T-shirts in support of WNBA star Brittney Griner at practice ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Griner has been detained in Russia since February been detained after vape cartridges containing hashish oil allegedly were found in her luggage at an airport in Moscow. The WNBA and the NBA have been working on securing her release and her peers in both leagues have been showing their support in various ways.
“As a collective we wanted to come out and show our support for Brittney Griner,” Celtics’ star Jaylen Brown said. “She’s been over there for an extended amount of time, and we feel like enough is enough.”
The Celtics’ Grant Williams, who is also vice president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), worked with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association to coordinate the effort.
“The shirts were super important not only showing our support for our sister that is detained over in Russia, Brittney Griner, we just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have throughout not only the NBA but the WNBA,” said Williams.
“I was able to coordinate that with the WNBAPA and NBAPA. They sent them overnight to get them here for today. They did a phenomenal job, and want to credit them to make that process happen. We just wanted to do that as a team. It was one of those things where no one questioned it. Everyone said, Let’s do it. Everyone put the shirt on immediately when we got them, fresh off the box. They were ironed and good to go. So we wanted to show that love and support.”
Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, continue to work with the league in the efforts to secure her release, letting her know she remains top of mind.
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) June 1, 2022
While detained Griner has not been able to call her WNBA or NBA peers, but she can receive letters and emails. But even that process isn’t simple. Emails are printed out and vetted by Russian officials then delivered sporadically to Griner by her lawyer. She doesn’t have access to the email account and either she’ll write a response on paper and her lawyers will take a photo or she will dictate a response.
Hashish oil in her personal vape cartridges is not the same as smuggling kilos of cocaine for distribution and sale. Still, Griner faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Detaining a high-profile American athlete like Griner is a way for Russia to flex its muscles against the United States. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) thinks Russia wants to use Griner as a “negotiating chip” with the U.S. amid the two nations’ differences over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I think there’s no doubt that her detention, and then this continuation of the imprisonment, is all to try to make her a hostage and a part of this chess game,” Kaine told “Full Court Press.” “Vladimir Putin and the Russians want to use her as a negotiating chip and what a horrific thing to do to someone.”
The U.S. opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stands with Ukraine’s right to independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The U.S. and other allies have levied economic sanctions against Russia for starting a war in Ukraine.
If Putin and the Russian government think they can use Griner’s detainment to force the United States’ hand, this is a very sinister and sick game to play.