Brittney Griner spoke at a press conference for the first time since returning home from being held in a Russian penal colony; Griner pledged to campaign to help bring back other Americans detained abroad; “I’m no stranger to hard times,” Griner said. “But this was a pretty big one”
Last Updated: 27/04/23 8:16pm
US basketball player Brittney Griner will campaign to help return home other Americans detained abroad.
Speaking at the first press conference since her ordeal in Russia, the Phoenix Mercury center said she never lost hope during her near 10-month detention.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist was released from one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies in a high-profile prisoner exchange with the United States late last year after she was arrested in February 2022.
“I’m no stranger to hard times,” Griner said during Thursday’s emotional news conference.
“Just digging deep, honestly, you’re going to be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one. I just kind of relied on my hard work to get through it.”
Griner was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and subsequently convicted of narcotics possession and trafficking after she was found to have been carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
She said she was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States for a chronic injury and never intended to break the law. US officials said she was wrongly detained and was being used as a political pawn amid increasingly strained relations with Russia.
She thanked US President Joe Biden for helping negotiate her release and said looking at photos of her family helped her keep going while she was detained.
“I was aware of the efforts and everything that was going on,” said Griner. “I know people were fighting for me and bringing awareness. That made me more comfortable there, and meant I had hope, which is a hard, dangerous thing to have because when it doesn’t work, it’s so crushing.”
She added: “I’ll say this, when I did lose my hope, looking at photos of my family brought the hope back.
“Just being able to see their faces did it for me. When you want to give up, those photos bring you back. You’re waiting on being with your loved ones.”
Griner pledged to dedicate herself to bringing home other Americans detained abroad and announced she and the Phoenix Mercury would partner with Bring Our Families Home to champion that cause.
Griner said it hurt to know others were living in the conditions she did and that she had a “no one left behind” mindset she attributed to her father, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“If I could have went in and got them out or any of that, I mean, of course I would have,” said Griner. “I hope that we – everyone – continues to bring awareness and fight to bring home everyone.
“To everyone who is wrongly detained across the world, stay strong, don’t give up, keep fighting. Find a routine and keep to it as best you can. Find the little things. Keep pushing, as we’re not going to stop fighting.”
The 32-year-old will begin her 10th season with Phoenix Mercury when their season kicks off on May 19 and said she will never play abroad again – as many in the WNBA do to earn extra income – unless it is to represent her country at the Olympics.
Salaries in the WNBA trail that of their male counterparts’ NBA.
“The whole reason a lot of us go over, you know, is the pay gap,” said Griner, who signed a one-year deal to stay with the Mercury in February.
“I don’t knock any player that wants to go overseas and make a little bit of extra money. I’m hoping that our league continues to grow.”
But she noted: “I’m never going abroad again unless representing my country, the USA, at the Olympics.”
Source : https://www.skysports.com/basketball/news/12040/12867826/brittney-griner-vows-to-campaign-to-bring-home-other-americans-detained-abroad-after-returning-from-ordeal-in-russia?rand=3094