Brittney Griner Pens Holiday Letter Asking for Support for Paul Whelan
Author: Alex Cooper
Lesbian WNBA champion Brittney Griner posted a holiday message to supporters this week, urging them to write to Paul Whelan, an American who is still detained in Russia.
“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months. You took time to show me you cared and I want to personally take the time to write to you and say that your effort mattered,” Griner wrote on Instagram. “Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time where I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Because of you I never lost hope.”
The Gold Medalist had been detained in the country for almost 10 months until she was returned in a prisoner exchange earlier this year. To release Griner, who had been detained after an arrest over small amounts of cannabis oil at a Moscow-area airport were discovered in her luggage, was swapped for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Her detention and later conviction on drug charges were condemned by the White House. She’d been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, one known for its harsh treatment of its prisoners.
Related: Freeing Brittney: How They Got Griner Home
“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. 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,” she wrote.
“Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the We Are BG 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.”
Whelan remains in a Russian prison. The former marine was detained in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage charges in 2020. U.S. officials have said that Russia has refused to release him with Whelan noting himself it’s probably due to Russia accusing him of being a spy — which he denies. The U.S. government has said the charges against him are made up.
Griner said last week in a separate post, “President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”
She added that she plans to play next season with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury. She had been in Russia to play in a Russian basketball team in the WNBA offseason, which is something many WNBA players do because of their pay.
“Thank you again from the bottom of my heart,” Griner concluded her recent post. “I hope our holiday season is full of joy and love.”
She signed by putting the address where people can send Whelan letters of support:
Paul N. Whelan
c/o American Citizen
Services Unit Consular
5430 Moscow Place
Department of State
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Alex Cooper