WNBA star Brittney Griner — who has been held in Russia since February — on Monday made a direct appeal to President Joe Biden for his help to release her and other Americans detained while abroad in a handwritten letter delivered to the White House.
Griner’s representatives released excerpts of the letter, in which the professional basketball player said she was “terrified” she might never leave Russia.
“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,” the Phoenix Mercury player 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 ,” she added.
Griner, 31, has been held in Russia since mid-February, when officials alleged that they had discovered vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage while she was traveling through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
She was in the country to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the Russian professional women’s team where she spends the WNBA offseason.
Just days after Griner’s judgment, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, which has cratered diplomatic relations with the United States and other western countries, with Biden and other world leaders enacting a raft a sanctions against Moscow.
Griner’s trial started on Friday. She faces up to ten years in prison.
In her letter, the player told Biden that she voted for him in the 2020 presidential election and asked that he also work to help free other individuals detained in foreign countries.
“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,” she wrote.
“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,” she added.
Last week, Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN that the basketball player has been forced into a small cage for hours on end each time she has to make an appearance in court.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said late last month that Griner was not being held “hostage,” but offered no timeline on her potential release.
“She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted,” he told NBC News. “It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws.”
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, on Monday said in a statement that the government was working to secure Griner’s freedom.