In a handwritten letter to President Biden, WNBA star Brittney Griner said she is “terrified” she will be in Russia “forever.” She also spoke of freedom in connection to her father who is a Vietnam War veteran, and she pleaded with the president to not forget her and other American detainees.
Three excerpts were made public, while the rest of the letter is being kept private, according to a statement released by the communications company representing the Griner family.
The excerpts from the handwritten letter read as follows:
“[As] I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.
On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.
I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Griner’s letter was delivered to the White House on Monday morning. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told CNN that Biden has read the handwritten letter, adding that the administration is “going to use every tool that we possibly can” to bring Griner home.
“President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement to CNN.
“The President’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family,” Watson said, adding that “the White House is closely coordinating with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her support network.”
On July 1, Griner made her first appearance in Russian court to begin her trial, where the WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison on drug smuggling charges. The two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury player has been detained since February, when two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were allegedly found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution last month calling on the Russian government to release Griner immediately.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said in an interview with CBS Mornings that she feels Griner decided to write a letter directly to President Biden because “the family has had no luck in contacting him.” Even after the letter was delivered, Cherelle said she has not heard from Biden directly, which she said is “very disheartening.”
“Initially I was told we are going to try to reserve, we’re going to try to handle this behind [the] scenes and let’s not raise her value and, you know, stay quiet. I did that and respectfully, we’re over 140 days at this point. That does not work,” Cherelle told CBS. “So I will not be quiet anymore. I will find that balance of harm versus help in pushing our government to do everything that’s possible because being quiet … they’re not moving, they’re not doing anything. So my wife is struggling, and we have to help her.”
Griner’s detention has been extended at least four times since February. Her trial will continue on July 7.