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Support grows to free Brittney Griner, an American basketball star imprisoned in Russia

With all eyes on the NBA Finals, the case Brittney Griner agitates the world of American basketball. Star player of the American women’s league (the WNBA), the 31-year-old pivot, who had signed up for the winter break with the Yekaterinburg club, was arrested on February 17 at an airport near Moscow. with vaporizers and a liquid with a particular smell” of cannabis oil, according to Russian customs.

Friday, June 10, a Russian court decided to extend until June 18 the detention of the basketball player who risks up to ten years in prison on Russian soil.

On the other side of the Atlantic, support actions continue to multiply safe and outside the basketball courts. Starting with the very influential LeBron James, who posted a press release on his Twitter account asking the repatriation of his compatriot. “As a decorated Olympian and a member of an elite global sporting community, Brittney Griner’s detention must end out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling abroad.”pleads the American superstar.

NBA and WNBA mobilized with one voice

“BG”, nickname of the 2.06m pivot, is also supported by Boston Celtics players. Right in the middle of the most important games of their season (Boston leads 2-1 in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors) the players in green warmed up with a t-shirt marked with the slogan “We are BG( “We are BG“) on the front, with on the back, a QR code that links to a petition addressed to the White House for the release of Griner. It has more than 250,000 signatures as of the date of publication of this article. “She’s been there too long, enough is enough“, even lamented Jaylen Brown, one of the best players in the squad, at a press conference just after game 2 of the finals, on June 5.

A month earlier, other basketball clubs went even further. The Phoenix Suns, male counterpart of the Mercury Phoenix, the WBNA franchise where Brittney Griner plays, had placed a life-size sticker of the player’s initials directly on its floor, the day of a decisive game against the Dallas Mavericks. The Las Vegas Aces women’s team replicated the gesture during a WNBA season game on May 8, 2022.

The Aces court in Las Vegas, May 8, 2022 (ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP)

A highly politicized affair

Griner’s arrest came amid international tensions over the Russian army’s entry into Ukraine. Washington fears that the player will be used as a pressure tool in the conflict.

Recently, Brittney Griner’s wife appealed directly to Joe Biden’s intervention in the very popular American program “Good Morning America”. On the verge of tears, Cherelle Griner begged the President of the United States: “If they’re holding her because Russia wants you to do something, then I’m asking you to do something.”

On Thursday May 7, the Russian news site Gazeta.ru claimed, citing a source within the Russian prison services, that he was “very probable” that Griner be traded for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

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