Paige Bueckers Calls on President Biden to Help Secure Brittney Griner's Release

Erin WalshJuly 5, 2022

College Basketball: NCAA Final Four:  UConn Paige Bueckers (5) in action, dribbles vs Stanford at Target Center. 
Minneapolis, MN 4/1/2022
CREDIT: David E. Klutho (Photo by David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: X163998 TK2)
Set Number: X163998 TK2

UConn women's basketball star Paige Bueckers has one simple message for President Joe Biden.

Bueckers ended her interview with Malika Andrews on ESPN's NBA Today calling for Biden and United States officials to do whatever it takes to bring Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February 17, home.

"Just a message to President Biden, the government and anybody with high enough power to help get Brittney Griner back home. I believe it's way far due for her to come home and she's an American. She's a hero. She's our sister in the WNBA and she's just family to the whole United States. So, just whatever it takes to get her home, I think it's definitely time," Bueckers said.

ESPN @espn

<a href="https://twitter.com/paigebueckers1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@paigebueckers1</a> closes out her interview with <a href="https://twitter.com/malika_andrews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@malika_andrews</a> with a powerful message on Brittney Griner:<br><br>"Whatever it takes to get her home ... I think it's definitely time." <a href="https://t.co/jf89kBOFi9">pic.twitter.com/jf89kBOFi9</a>

Bueckers' comments come after Griner wrote a letter directly to Biden appealing for help in obtaining her freedom. Representatives of Griner shared a few excerpts from the letter, per ESPN's TJ Quinn.

"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other American Detainees," Griner wrote. "Please do all that 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 has been detained in Russia for 138 days as of Tuesday after being arrested at a Moscow airport for allegedly carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Her detention was extended another six months last week, and she faces up to 10 years in Russian prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs. Her trial began July 1 and will continue on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that U.S. officials were "doing everything" they could to protect the rights of Americans being detained in Russia.

"There's only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point," Blinken said of Griner. "Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia."

Blinken added: "We have an embassy team that's working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia. We're doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected."

The Biden administration classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" in May, meaning that it would not wait for her case to be play out in a Russian court and instead begin negotiating her release.

It has been speculated that a prisoner exchange would need to occur with Russia for Griner to be released. According to Gerald Posner of Forbes, the Biden administration offered to exchange convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner.

However, Blinken would not discuss such an exchange during an appearance on CNN last month.

"As a general proposition ... I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home," Blinken said. "I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority."

Griner has played in the WNBA since 2013 after being selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury. An eight-time All-Star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, she ranks third all-time in career blocks and field-goal percentage and guided the Mercury to the 2014 title.

Griner is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She was also named an honorary starter for the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game and has received an outpouring of support from her colleagues and many other athletes.