USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and four-time NBA champion Steph Curry were among the high-profile names to raise awareness of Griner’s case at the event which looks to celebrate athletic achievement.
“As we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay energized on her behalf,” Curry said, when joined by WNBA stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith to address the issue.
“She’s one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and all over the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or global conflict.”
Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials say they found cannabis oil in her luggage. The basketball star, who plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, has been held since then on drug smuggling charges.
The 31-year-old, whom the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained, pleaded guilty to drug charges and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Supporters of the Phoenix Mercury player have called for her release over fears she is being used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rapinoe, who won an award for her performances for the USWNT, used her acceptance speech to highlight what the sporting community can do to help.
“I think honestly what we’ve witnessed tonight is the importance of sport and how much we can bring and how much we can get done in the world with our collective power,” she said.
“Every time we say her name, it puts pressure on everyone, puts pressure on the administration, puts pressure on Russia. The most striking thing is that BG [Brittney Griner] isn’t here. BG deserves to be free.
“We can support her more and let her know that we love her so much.”
Rapinoe had previously paid tribute to Griner as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the US — when she wore a cream blazer with the initials ‘BG’ and a bunch of flowers embroidered onto the lapel.
Billie Jean King, one of America’s most celebrated tennis players, also mentioned Griner’s case at the awards ceremony, saying: “First, bring BG home. Okay, got to do that.”
Last week, Griner’s defense team submitted to the Russian court a letter from a US medical center issuing a permit in Arizona in 2020 for the use of medical cannabis for Griner to treat her chronic pain caused by sports injuries.
The trial has now been postponed until July 26 after her lawyers said they needed more time to prepare for next steps.
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