Celtics add their voice to those calling for Griner’s return
Brittney Griner was not forgotten during the NBA Finals.
The WNBA star has been detained in Russia for more than 100 days – wrongly, US officials insist – and some Boston Celtics members are using their platform during the NBA title streak to add their voices to the chorus of those asking that she be allowed to go home.
Several players wore black T-shirts with “We Are BG” on the front in orange lettering for their practice session during Saturday’s NBA Finals. Game 2 of the title series between the Celtics and Golden State Warriors is on Sunday.
“It’s extremely difficult to see what she’s going through,” All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum said of the Celtics. “I know everyone sees and feels that, and obviously we’re all together trying to get her back to her family and things like that. Yeah, wearing those shirts today to support her.
The shirts also had a QR code on the back, linking to an online petition seeking 300,000 signatures in support of bringing Griner home.
“We thought it was a good idea to use our availability and our platforms to draw attention to certain issues,” said Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, an officer with the National Basketball Players Association. “I always defend that. As an athlete, we’re not just here to entertain you. We also have a voice. I appreciate and always applaud athletes, artists, my teammates who consider doing something with this. I don’t know if we’ll carry it for the rest of the time, but today was a good day to bring attention to a topic that was needed.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained since February after vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil were allegedly found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States, faces drug trafficking charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“She has now been illegally detained in Russia for over 100 days,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “I think this is something we should all be heard about, reaching out to your reps and others. I will only say that we are working closely with the US government and outside experts to try to expedite his release in any way possible. Our thoughts are certainly with her and her family, and we are just as eager for her safe return.
Russian officials have described Griner’s case as a criminal offense without making any political associations. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has taken US-Russian relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.
Despite the tension, Russia and the US carried out an unexpected prisoner swap last month – swapping former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Although the United States does not generally accept such exchanges, it reached the agreement in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long part of his sentence. The Russians may see Griner as someone who could feature in another such exchange.
Celtics goaltender Grant Williams helped coordinate Saturday’s effort, also working with the NBPA and WNBA Players’ Association to make it happen.
He said it’s important NBA players show “that love and support” for Griner.
“They sent them out overnight to get them here for today,” Williams said. “They did a phenomenal job and we want to give them credit for making this process happen. We just wanted to do this as a team. It was one of those things where no one questioned it. Everyone said, ‘Let’s do it. Everyone put on the shirt immediately when we received it, fresh out of the box. They were ironed and ready to go.
The WNBA has acknowledged Griner’s absence this season in several ways, including numerous players’ social media posts and the league placing a decal with his initials and number on the floor of all 12 teams in that league.
“Remember, y’all,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said, pointing proudly to Griner’s initials on his chest. “Look at this shirt. We’re with BG.”
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