Basketball star LeBron James has joined calls for the government to bring Brittney Griner back to the US after she was arrested in Russia, where state officials claim she was caught trying to smuggle hash oil into the country.
Phoenix Mercury basketball player Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow Airport on February 18 for allegedly bringing into the country vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia.
She was in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg with an alleged $1 million contract but now faces up to 10 years in a labor camp for drug smuggling.
And now Lakers legend LeBron James, 37, has asked the Biden administration directly to bring Griner home “quickly and safely.”
The athlete wrote on Twitter: “We must come together and help to do everything we can to bring BG [Brittney Griner] home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together.”
He then shared a flyer from campaign group We Are BG, which is asking that Brittney be brought back to the US. It said: “BG has been subjected to inhumane conditions in a Russian prison for over 100 days and has been denied communication with her family and loved ones.
LeBron James has joined calls for the government to bring fellow basketball player Brittney Griner back to the United States after she was arrested in Russia, where state officials claim she was caught trying to smuggle hash oil into the country
“As a decorated Olympian and a member of an elite global sports community, BG’s imprisonment must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sports and all Americans who travel internationally.
“It is imperative that the US government address this human rights issue immediately and do whatever is necessary to bring Brittney home.”
The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongly jailed while the WNBA and US officials work toward her release with no visible progress. The White House called their detention illegal.
In early May, her case was referred to the US President’s Special Representative for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), who is negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans believed to be wrongly detained.
Lakers legend LeBron James, 37, has directly asked the Biden administration to bring Griner home “quickly and safely.”
Phoenix Mercury basketball player Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow Airport on February 18 for allegedly bringing into the country vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia. Pictured leaving court in Moscow last month
The allegations against Griner have not been proven in court, and several officials, including US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, have accused the Russian government of making false charges against Griner and other detained Americans.
The Olympian pleaded not guilty in a Moscow court last month.
Russian officials have called the US and said state officials are trying to “influence the judiciary” by sticking their noses in.
Russian officials say their arrest was based on “objective facts and evidence”. “She was caught in the act trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime,” read a CNN statement.
The top athlete was seen leaving a Moscow courthouse with her hood up and hair on her face on May 13 when she was told her detention would be extended for another month.
Griner, who is considered one of the best basketball players in the world, has been in custody for 84 days.
Griner, who is considered one of the best basketball players in the world, has been in custody for 84 days
Her lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told The Associated Press the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would soon go to court.
“The allegations are serious and based on available objective facts and evidence. Attempts by the State Department to question the validity of B. Griner’s detention are explained solely by a desire to influence the judiciary by politicizing a commonly understood situation,” the statement said.
“The last point should be made by the court in this case.”
After repeated requests, a State Department official in Moscow was granted consular access to Griner last month, and the basketball player, who was the first draft pick for the WNBA, was found to be in “good condition.”
The WNBA star (pictured at the Tokyo Olympics) faces up to 10 years in a labor camp for drug smuggling if found guilty
“We have been able to verify her condition, we will continue to work very closely with her legal team and her wider network to ensure she is treated fairly,” a representative said at the time.
“Our officer has determined that Brittney Griner is in good condition and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure she is treated fairly during this ordeal.”
Her only problem was that prison beds were reportedly too short for her 6-foot-9 frame.
Winning Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021, Griner is a seven-time All-Star who also plays in the WNBA as a center for Phoenix Mercury but was dragged to the Russian league for higher salaries.