LeBron James criticises US efforts to bring Brittney Griner home

LeBron James has commented on WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia, asking: “How can she feel like America has her back?”

Griner was detained in Russia after Moscow airport authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing cannabis in her luggage on 17 February.

A request for home detention has been denied, and she pleaded guilty to drug charges in Khimki Court on Friday (7 July).

In a trailer for the latest episode of his YouTube talk show The Shop: Uninterrupted, James criticised US efforts to help Griner.

He said that if he were in her shoes, “I would be feeling like: Do I even want to go back to America?”

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on June 27, 2022.(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

James clarified his comments in a tweet on Tuesday (13 July), writing: “My comments on The Shop regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country.

“I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! “Long story short #BringHerHome.”

My comments on “The Shop” regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country. I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome

— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 13, 2022

 

President Joe Biden has assured Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, that he is pursuing her release.

It came after Griner wrote a letter to the president from Russia, delivered on 4 July, imploring him to help free her.

She wrote:  “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.

WNBA Coach Vanessa Nygaard told reporters on 5 July that US ambassadors would have acted a lot quicker “if it was LeBron” who had been detained in Russia.

She said: “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person.”

A former US ambassador is expected to travel to Russia in a private capacity in the near future to engage in release talks with authorities, according to sources reported by ABC News.

The former diplomat Bill Richardson – who privately works on behalf of families of hostages and detainees – is also expected to negotiate the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who’s been held in Russia for three and a half years.

Griner’s legal team explained to The Independent that she decided to take “full responsibility” with her guilty plea in hopes that the court might mitigate her sentence. She explained to the court that she packed the offending cartridges by mistake while rushing.

“Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and [Griner’s] personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defence hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence,” her legal team said.

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