The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Terrified’ Brittney Griner writes to Biden to push for her freedom

Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February on drug charges, wrote a letter to President Biden that was delivered to the White House on Monday morning, her sports agency said.

In the letter, Griner, 31, expressed fear over not knowing how long she will be detained and urged Biden to work for her release and that of other Americans detained abroad.

“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 in an excerpt of the letter shared by Wasserman, a talent agency that represents the Phoenix Mercury center.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” she added. “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’s wife, Cherelle, and the Griner family were not available for further comment, Wasserman said.

Candace Buckner: Brittney Griner is still locked up, and our tweets and T-shirts can’t free her

Asked for comment on the letter, Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told The Washington Post, “[Biden’s] team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family.”

Watson said that Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken several times with Cherelle Griner in recent weeks and that the White House has been closely coordinating with the envoy for hostage affairs, which has met with Griner’s family and Mercury teammates.

“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner,” Watson said. “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.”

In her letter, the eight-time WNBA all-star and 2016 Olympic gold medalist referenced her father’s military service and said Independence Day no longer feels the same.

“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,” Griner wrote. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Griner, who was arrested Feb. 17 and charged with carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her baggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, could face 10 years in prison if convicted.

Opinion: Brittney Griner is a hostage, plain and simple

She appeared in court Friday for a hearing and said she understood the charges but did not enter a plea before the court adjourned until Thursday to hear more evidence. Griner is slated to remain detained until December, pending the trial’s verdict, which experts believe almost certainly will come back as guilty.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood attended Friday’s hearing and said the United States was working “at the highest levels” to bring Griner home.

“We care deeply about this case and about Ms. Griner’s welfare, as do so many Americans, and as we do with all U.S. citizen prisoners overseas,” Rood said in a statement Friday. “We were able to speak to Ms. Griner in the courtroom today. She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances.”

Matt Viser contributed to this report.