In an Instagram post late Wednesday, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner thanked fans for their support while she spent nearly 10 months detained in Russia and also advocating for them to support other American citizens who have been detained in foreign countries. Griner specifically cited the example of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been imprisoned in Russia on charges of espionage.Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage and had been detained at a Mordovia penal colony, returned to the United States earlier this month after being freed in a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. In her letter, Griner told fans and advocates that she “never lost hope” because of their support.
“Your letters were also bigger than uplifting me. They showed me the power of collective hands. Together, we can do hard things. I’m living proof of that,” Griner wrote. “My family’s whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together.
“However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained. Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the WeAreBG Campaign to bring me home and it’s our turn to support them. I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”Griner finished her letter by including a mailing address for Whelan in care of the Department of State in Washington D.C.
After missing the entire 2022 season while in detainment, Griner recently announced that she plans to return to the WNBA for the full 2023 season. Griner was a WNBA All-Star in 2021, averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game.