Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner sent a handwritten letter to U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday asking for her release from Russia. Her agency released excerpts from the letter to the public:
“… as 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," Griner wrote.
“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.”
Griner, 31, has been detained in a Moscow jail since being arrested on February 17, 2022, after officials found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She will be detained for at least six more months while her trial resumes and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted of drug smuggling charges. While she did not enter a plea on the first day of her trial – July 1 – her trial will resume on Thursday.
In another letter to her wife, Cherelle, Griner admitted she's trying to stay strong mentally throughout her detainment until she returns to home.
“She’s like, ‘I’m okay, babe. I’m hardened. I’m not me right now. When I come home, it’s going to take a minute to get back to myself, but I’m holding on,'” Cherelle said on Al Sharpton’s Keepin’ It Real. “‘I won’t break until I come home. I won’t let them break me. I know they are trying to, but I’m going to do my best to just hold on until I can come home.'”
After the U.S. declared her "wrongfully detained" by the Russian government and has reportedly been seeking her released. Though, the means by which that release could occur have not been disclosed. Russian state-run media once thought Griner could be released if the U.S. released convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Others believe Griner former Marine Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on espionage charges in 2018, could be exchanged together for Bout.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood, who attended Griner's trial on July 1, said Griner told her to tell the American public she is "in good spirits and is keeping up the faith."
Statement by US Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood following Day 1 of #BrittneyGriner trial outside Moscow. Today, the Kremlin again insisted the case was not politically motivated. pic.twitter.com/EPb1UnO4oj
— Charles Maynes (@cwmiii3) July 1, 2022
Many have called for Griner's release recently. Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson and Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard spoke passionately about their friend and teammate after the first photos of Griner were released last week, and players around the WNBA and NBA have been adamant about getting Griner safely back to the U.S.