They say, “out of sight, out of mind.” Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case for Brittney Griner, largely due to her wife and the women of the WNBA.
But now it’s time for reinforcements.
With the 76ers and Celtics tipping the season off on Tuesday night in Boston — followed by the Lakers traveling to San Francisco for the Warriors’ ring ceremony — it’s the perfect storm for some of the biggest names in a global game to start a season-long petition for Griner’s freedom. And since this is a league in which playoff games were boycotted in “The Bubble” as players frequently discussed Breonna Taylor, it doesn’t feel like too much of an ask for NBA players to be more vocal about bringing Griner home.
“She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Brittney’s wife Cherelle told CBS Mornings earlier this month.
“Like, y’all don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I just nothing?” Cherelle quoted Griner as saying, in addition to her wife feeling “like my life just doesn’t matter.”
On Sunday, it was reported that Griner’s release is a low priority for the Russians.
“In this tense situation, I think that he (Biden) is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections,” USA Today reported Yury Ushakov — a former Russian ambassador to the United States — said on state-run TV program Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.” “He keeps emphasizing the need to bring (Griner) back home ... however, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.”
According to Griner’s lawyer, she’s struggling with her emotions as she’s only being allowed outside once a day and shares her small cell with two other people. She’s been in custody since February.
“She is not yet absolutely convinced that America will be able to take her home,” her attorney Alexandr D. Boykov told The New York Times. “She is very worried about what the price of that will be, and she is afraid that she will have to serve the whole sentence here in Russia.”
Griner understands who she is, and that’s a triple minority as a Black gay woman — which has always been a recipe for America not making you a priority, let alone a country run by someone like Putin.
“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard asked in July. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”
This is why the work of the women in the WNBA has been so important in keeping Griner’s name at the forefront of discussions. It’s why it was so beautiful to see July’s WNBA All-Star Game serve as a tribute to one of the league’s all-time greats. The warmups had her name and number on the back, as she was also named an honorary starter.
“It’s a family,” said Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammond. “Not only has the WNBA and its players, but also the NBA, bringing a national light to it only helps maybe put some pressure on the Russian government to do the right thing and let her go.
“It’s time for her to come back.”
Next week, Griner’s appeal of her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession will take place on Oct. 25. Between the opening night of the 2022-2023 NBA season — which falls on her 32nd birthday — and then, at least 51 games will have been played, giving the men of the NBA 50-plus opportunities to show America, Russia, and the world that Brittany Griner’s Black life matters. Posting a hashtag is the easy part. Now is the time for action beyond having Twitter fingers.