Basketball great LeBron James has joined calls for the government to help bring Brittney Griner back to the US after being detained in Russia where state officials claim she 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 vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia, into the country.
She was in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg on a reported $1million contract, but could now face up to 10 years in a labor camp for drug smuggling charges.
And now 37-year-old Lakers legend LeBron James has made a direct plea to the Biden administration to bring Griner home ‘quickly and safely’.
On Twitter, the sportsman wrote: ‘We need to come together and help do whatever we can to bring BG [Brittney Griner] home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together.’
He then shared a flyer by campaign group We Are BG which is petitioning to get Brittney back to the US. It read: ‘For over 100 days, BG has faced inhumane conditions in a Russian prison and has been denied communications with her family and loved ones.
LeBron James has joined calls for the government to help bring fellow basketball player Brittney Griner back to the US after being detained in Russia where state officials claim she was caught trying to smuggle hash oil into the country
‘As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally.
‘It is imperative that the US Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home.’
The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongfully detained while the WNBA and US officials have been working towards her release, without visible progress. The White House called her imprisonment illegal.
In early May, her case was handed off to the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), which negotiates the release of hostages and other Americans deemed wrongfully detained.
The 37-year-old Lakers legend LeBron James has made a direct plea to 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 vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia, into the country. Pictured leaving court in Moscow last month
The allegations against Griner have not been proven in court, and several public officials, including US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, have accused the Russian government of bringing false charges against Griner and other imprisoned Americans.
The Olympian pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Moscow court last month.
Russian officials have called out the US, saying state representatives are trying to ‘influence justice’ by sticking their nose in it.
Russian officials say her arrest is based on ‘objective facts and evidence’. ‘She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime,’ a statement, obtained by CNN, read.
The star athlete was seen leaving a Moscow court on 13 May with her hood up and hair covering her face as she was told her detention would extend another month.
Griner, considered one of the best female basketball players in the world, has already been in detention for 84 days.
Griner, considered one of the best female basketball players in the world, has already been in detention for 84 days
Her lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told The Associated Press the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would come to trial soon.
‘The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available. Attempts the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention B. Griner are explained by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation,’ the statement reportedly read.
‘The final point, in this case, should be made by the court.’
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 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 were check on her condition, we will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her able to broader network, to see to it she is treated fairly,’ a representative said at the time.
‘Our official found Brittney Griner to be in good condition and we will continue to do everything we can see to it that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.’
Her only issue was that the prison beds in the jail were reportedly too short for her 6-foot-9 frame.
Griner won Olympic gold medals with the US national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays center for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.