Celtics amplify pressure for action on Brittney Griner

The Boston Celtics players delivered a message to the White House during their NBA Finals practice on Saturday.

Bring Brittney Griner home.

Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and other Celtics players wore t-shirts to practice that said “We are BG” and had a QR code on the back that links to a petition calling for Griner’s safe return.

Griner — a seven-time All-Star for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — has been jailed in Russia since February 17 on drug-related charges after allegedly carrying vape cartridges containing hash oil through a security checkpoint at Moscow Airport. Smart, Brown, and Jayson Tatum all spoke about Griner during their media presence.

“It’s extremely hard to see what she’s going through,” Tatum said. “Everyone sees and feels that. Obviously we are all in this together and supporting the attempt to bring her back to her family.”

“We think it’s a good idea to use our availability and platforms to raise awareness of specific issues,” Brown added. “That’s what I always stand for. As athletes, we’re not just here to entertain you. We also have a voice. … Today was a good day to raise awareness of a necessary issue.”

Smart just said, “Free BG, man. We are here. We are here for you. We stand by her.”

The petition linked to the QR code is titled, “Secure Brittney Griner’s speedy and safe return to the United States.” It specifically calls on President Joe Biden to take action to bring Griner home.

“The White House and the Biden administration, we ask that you take action today — do whatever is necessary — to bring Brittney Griner home quickly and safely,” the petition reads.

It also blames “unfair pay” for Griner’s imprisonment. Griner was in Russia during the off-season of the WNBA to play for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg. She is reportedly making significantly more money in Russia than in the WNBA.

With Russia locked in its ongoing war against Ukraine and her people, negotiating Griner’s return is far from easy. Russia has reportedly demanded that the US extradite convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout aka “Dealer of Death” in exchange for Griner. Bout has been jailed in the US since an international undercover operation in 2008 and a conviction in 2012 on four counts including conspiracy to kill Americans.

As calls for Brittney Griner's return mount, negotiations for her release from Russian custody remain dangerous.  (AP / Ross D Franklin)

As calls for Brittney Griner’s return mount, negotiations for her release from Russian custody remain dangerous. (AP / Ross D Franklin)

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