by John Marshall
PHOENIX ( Associated Press) – They laughed, smiled, shared memories. There were tears, fear, uneasiness too.
Through the range of feelings, a common thread tied them together: Brittany Griner.
Wearing “BG” shirts and holding signs, several hundred fans gathered for a public rally in support of Griner on Wednesday, in hopes that their sentiments would reach a WNBA player 6,000 miles away in a Russian prison cell.
“It’s really painful and hard to watch, and it’s really taken a toll on a lot of us,” said Kelly Gedney of Surprise, Arizona. “We can feel the fear that she has. It’s scary to me that she’s locked in a cage when she’s traveling through her court cases. She’s been wrongly detained and We are going to do everything possible to get him home.
Griner has spent the past four months in a Russian prison and is currently on trial. When she was returning to Moscow airport to play for her Russian team, she was accused of possessing wipe cartridges containing cannabis oil, facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Had been.
The WNBA and US officials have worked to free Griner without success. Griner was able to send a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden, saying he feared spending the rest of his life in prison, pushing the administration not to forget about other American detainees.
President Biden called Griner’s wife Cherrell on Wednesday to say he was working to free her as quickly as possible.
“One hundred and twenty-nine days have passed since my wife has been able to talk to me, our family, and our friends,” said Cherrell Griner, pausing several times during the rally to prepare herself. “I am disappointed that my wife is not going to get justice. I know you are all disappointed too. That’s why you are here.”
The rally at the Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Mercury & Sons, was a celebration of Griner’s achievements on and off the court with a call to action.
The rally featured videos of Griner’s community, dancers and a dramatic poem reading, as several Mercury teammates sat together in chairs on the right side of the court.
Phoenix Suns player Torey Craig spoke, as did Mercury player Brianna Turner.
“To know BG is to know such a kind soul, a good person, such a giver—I could go on and on about what kind of person he is,” said Turner, who went on to exchange letters with Griner. I was able too. “We need to bring him back home. He deserves to be home. He needs to be back with his family and friends. We’re BG.”
Congressman Greg Stanton of Arizona, the former mayor of Phoenix, was also on hand after pushing a resolution for Griner’s immediate release that was passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this week.
“Today was a momentous day, a show of unity, speaking in one voice that we expect our president, our administration, to do what it takes to bring our fellow Americans back home,” Stanton said.
To see more Associated Press stories on Griner: https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner