“I Don’t Want to Say Who Said That” | Lisa Leslie Reveals A ‘Free Brittney’ Campaign Is Not the Right Exit Strategy

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Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia should be one of the biggest news story in America during the conflict with Ukraine. However, former WNBA great Lisa Leslie explained why demurring to discuss her situation in the news is totally by design.

The two-time WNBA champion, three-time WNBA MVP, and a four-time Olympic gold medalist stopped by the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast on Friday, March 25, to illuminate the precautions Leslie and the other athletes have taken during this critical time for Griner.

Lisa Leslie Speaks

“So what we were told, and again, this is all sort of passed along through hearsay; what we were told was to not make a big fuss about it so that they could not use her as a pawn, so to speak, in this situation in the war,” said Leslie on the podcast.

“So to make it like it’s not that important, or don’t make it like ‘Free Brittney’ and we start this campaign, and then it becomes something that they can use.

“That’s what we were told, and I don’t want to say who said that, but it’s been kind of spreading through the women’s basketball world.”

A Serious Situation

Local authorities detained the decorated WNBA player after vape cartridges allegedly filled with hashish oil were discovered in her luggage.

Griner was returning to Russia as a player for UMMC Ekaterinburg. The Russian league’s season started and went on a two-week break for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments in early February.

Early in the ordeal, Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, took to Instagram to ask for the family’s privacy.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated,” she wrote.

“I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life. I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin has waged war on Ukraine, the tension between the country and America has escalated. Griner’s detention comes as President Joe Biden has issued economic sanctions against Russia and has provided aid and safe haven to Ukrainians.

Tense Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made threatening statements as the war progresses, some directed towards Americans and Griner has been facing serious time in prison.

According to reports, officials from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow recently visited Griner, finding her to be “in good condition” per U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“The consular officer who visited with Brittney Griner was able to verify that she is doing as well as can be expected under these very difficult circumstances.

“We will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly and that her rights are respected,” Price continued.

New Territory

For Leslie, this is new territory, and the support she would generally show to mobilize efforts around the problem had to become a strategy of omission.

“It’s heartbreaking for all of us; that’s the feelings of it,” Leslie continued. “I mean we want to do more, and you think ‘should we all use our social media platform and get behind it or not. This is the first time we’re in a situation you don’t know what to do.

“We, I talk with Dawn Staley and people that I’m close with; I mean we talk about it daily. We’re just like, ‘Dang, what’s she doing now? You think they cut off her hair? You think she has a bed long enough for her to fit in? You think she’s in the room; we’ve had full-on conversations about it. I’m like her parents got to be sick.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.