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LeBron James is using social media to share his public support for WNBA star Brittney Griner by calling on the U.S. government to bring the detained athlete, who has been held by Russian authorities for more than 100 days, “home quickly and safely.”
James tweeted Sunday night saying, “We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together.”
He then posted a letter that stated:
“For over 100 days, BG has faced inhumane conditions in a Russian prison and has been denied communications with her family and loved ones. As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally. It is imperative that the U.S. Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home.”
The letter includes links to a Change.org petition calling for the safe return of Griner; the petition is approaching 300,000 signatures. The post also calls for others to use the hashtag #WeAreBG and to tag the White House in posts asking for Griner’s return. Before Sunday night’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals, players from the Boston Celtics wore We Are BG shirts during warmups, in support of Griner.
In February, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a star center with the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at Moscow’s airport for allegedly having vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil in her luggage. The drug charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Last month, a Russian court extended Griner’s pretrial detention by one month. A State Department official said U.S. diplomats attended her hearing and were able to speak with Griner. “She is doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances,” the official added.
Griner was in Russia because she plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian basketball team based in Yekaterinburg. Because of low contract amounts in the WNBA, salaries offered by foreign leagues can draw players from the United States. The U.S. government has declared that Griner was “wrongfully detained” — a move that shifts responsibility for her case from consular affairs to a special envoy for hostage affairs.