Listen to this article here
Passed from her representatives to the White House, Brittney Griner’s letter to President Joe Biden asked him not to “forget about me and the other American detainees,” highlighting the increasing desperation of her situation.
While millions of Americans gathered around family and food during the Fourth of July holiday commemorating U.S. Independence Day, WNBA star and two-time Olympic champion Brittney Griner remained huddled inside a cold, Russian prison cell hoping her president would come to her aid.
After being detained for more than four months on charges of drug trafficking, a letter from Brittney Griner to U.S. President Joe Biden was delivered on Monday, according to Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas. Despite allegedly finding just 0.7 grams of cannabis oil extracts in a vape cartridge, Griner faces up to 10 years in Russian prison over what the U.S. State Department is calling “wrongfully detained.”
Griner’s agent didn’t release the full letter to the public, however she did share a few lines, according to the Associated Press.
?…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,” the Phoenix Mercury center added. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Brittney Griner hopes letter to President Biden on Independence Day will cause action
For months, politicians and sports organizations have raised Griner’s profile by illuminating her jersey number on floor decals during WNBA games and working with the business community to assess their options.
The State Department, in elevating her case to “wrongfully detained,” has allowed for more resources devoted to hostage negotiations, yet no visible progress has been made.
Notably, Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle said she had not heard a response from Biden or the White House as of Tuesday morning, a day after the White House reportedly received the letter.
“I still have not heard from him and honestly, it’s very disheartening,” Cherelle Griner said on CBS Mornings.
Meanwhile, the White House National Security Council confirmed they received the letter.
“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on Monday. “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home.”
Russian prisoner swap on the table
Notably, less than 1% of Russian detainees are acquitted of their crimes. Like other American detainees, such as former Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence, Griner doesn’t appear hopeful of the process.
“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,” Griner 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.”
Russia continually signals interest in a trade between Brittney Griner and Russian mercenary Victor Bout. After securing the release of American Trevor Reed through a similar prisoner swap in late April, the pressure is rising for President Biden to take drastic action.