There had been two months of near silence on WNBA star Brittney Griner and her current imprisonment in Russia.
But that began to change this week with the celebration of the Houston native’s 32nd birthday on Tuesday, which coincided with the official opening of the 2022-23 NBA season. Two of the NBA’s biggest star point guards, Golden State’s Steph Curry and Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, made sure the basketball world remembered Griner’s name.
Prior to Tuesday night’s tipoff between the Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, Curry paid homage to the two-Olympic champion and former standout at Nimitz and Baylor during the Warriors’ ring ceremony.
“Brittney Griner’s birthday is today, she’s 32,” Curry said. “We want to continue to let her name be known, and we pray. It’s been 243 days since she was wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon, that everybody’s doing their part to get her home.”
Irving, meanwhile, was a little more targeted as he spoke out on Griner’s behalf on Wednesday night prior to the Nets’ season tipoff against the New Orleans Pelicans. Irving challenged President Biden and others to do more to gain Griner’s release.
Griner has been held in Russia since February when she was arrested with a small amount of cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport just before she boarded a flight back to the United States. She has since been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison while seen as being wrongfully detained.
Irving reminded the crowd from center court at the Barclays Center, “the big picture that’s going on in the world is to free our sister Brittney Griner.”
Then Irving challenged the President.
“Please, please POTUS, do your job,” Irving said as the crowd began to cheer. “Everybody do your job, please bring our sister home.”
The U.S., of course, is attempting to negotiate Griner’s release. But Griner’s imprisonment is seen as largely political with Russia and the U.S. currently at odds over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner is scheduled to have an appeal hearing on Oct. 25, but it’s doubtful that it will lead to her immediate release.
Griner was over in Russia playing basketball during the WNBA offseason as she has done for years.