PHOENIX – Suns forward Mikal Bridges’ face perked up Tuesday morning when he learned the Suns were turning back the clock to wear throwback Sunburst jerseys against the Golden State Warriors for ’90s-theme night at Footprint Center.
But his excitement got sucked out of the room as soon as Brittney Griner’s name was brought up during the morning shootaround availability. Hours earlier, a Russian court denied the Phoenix Mercury star’s appeal of a nine-year sentence for drug charges.
The end is nowhere near for Griner, who has spent the past 250 days in a Russian prison.
“It’s just a sad situation,” Bridges said. “We want her here, we want her back. Just praying for her and her family. I know it stinks but I just hope she comes home sooner than later.”
Griner was arrested Feb. 17 for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil. She pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced Aug. 4.
“It’s crazy,” Suns guard Damion Lee said. “You know it’s sad, obviously. You don’t want anyone to be in jail. Wrongfully detained, it’s upsetting. So hopefully we can find a way to get her back here and get her back safe.”
Oct. 18 was Brittney Griner’s 32nd birthday. On NBA opening night for the 2022-23 season, Warriors guard Stephen Curry helped bring awareness to Griner’s imprisonment after Golden State’s ring ceremony. Suns coach Monty Williams joined the chorus of support, reiterating the importance of keeping Griner in mind.
“I just hope our fans, Mercury fans, and our community keeps praying for her,” said Williams.
In response to Tuesday’s ruling, WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert released this statement:
“Today’s decision while unfortunate, was not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. We greatly appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Administration and US Department of State in leading the negotiations. It is time to bring this case to an end and bring BG home.”
The hope was that Griner would be sent back to the States via prisoner exchange, but instead, over eight months after her arrest, Griner does not appear to be any closer to returning home. On Monday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke about the situation with ESPN.
“It’s frustrating for us and enormously frustrating for her family,” Silver told the outlet. “I’m not sure what else we could be doing right now.”
The responsibility is not the NBA or WNBA’s to bring Griner home, but that shouldn’t stop the leagues from voicing its concerns for Griner’s well-being. If not discussed, it’s easy to forget about anyone incarcerated thousands of miles away with limited communication with the outside world.
Fellow WNBA star Breanna Stewart took to Twitter Monday to express her thoughts on Griner’s detainment.
“It has been 250 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse @potus @vp , we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG,” Stewart tweeted.
According to ESPN, Griner’s attorneys could pursue another appeal attempt, telling the outlet, “we generally think that we must use all the available legal tools.”
ESPN also reports that several U.S. officials believe Russia will not engage seriously in negotiations until after the U.S. midterm elections Nov. 8, not wanting to give the Biden administration a political victory.