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Lakers' LeBron James Clarifies Comments on USA's Efforts to Free Brittney Griner

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 13, 2022

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James clarified recent comments on the United States' efforts to bring home Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for 146 days after the Russian Federal Customs Service said they found vape pen cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport in February.

Per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, James made his remarks on an upcoming episode of The Shop: Uninterrupted, as seen in a trailer that came out Tuesday.

"Now, how can she feel like America has her back?" he said. "I would be feeling like, 'Do I even want to go back to America?'"

James went on Twitter on Tuesday to follow up on those remarks.

LeBron James @KingJames

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreeBG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FreeBG</a>🧡

James has previously tweeted his support of Griner, an eight-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA.

LeBron James @KingJames

We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! 🙏🏾 Our voice as athletes is stronger together. <a href="https://twitter.com/uninterrupted?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@uninterrupted</a> 👑 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreBG</a> <a href="https://t.co/2GWV3Ff81p">pic.twitter.com/2GWV3Ff81p</a>

Griner's lawyers confirmed to CNN that their client pleaded guilty to drug charges July 7. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

"She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people," a statement read.

"Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG's personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence."

In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as wrongfully detained, which typically signals greater efforts will be made to secure a prisoner's release.

However, Griner remains in Russia. Shortly before her trial, she penned a letter to President Joe Biden that included the following plea:

"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."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the U.S. government is "going to use every tool that we possibly can" to bring Griner home.

Griner's wife, Cherelle, implored the United States government to do more in an interview with Abby Phillip and Steve Almasy of CNN on June 30:

"It's really, really difficult. This is not a situation where the rhetoric is matching the action. I do have to unfortunately push people to make sure that the things they're telling me is also matching their actions, and so it's been the hardest thing to balance because I can't let up. It's over 130 days and BG's still not back."

On July 6, the White House stated that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken with Cherelle Griner.

"The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world," the statement read in part.

TMZ Sports noted the episode of The Shop appears to have been filmed prior to the news of Cherelle Griner's talk with President Biden and Vice President Harris.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 14, and Griner's legal team expects the trial to end around the beginning of August.

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