all scores

Brittney Griner’s 32nd birthday marks eight months in Russian detainment

Brittney Griner stands in a defendants’ cage in Russian court hearing during her trial. (Evgenia Novozhenina/AFP via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner turns 32 years old Tuesday, and she does so while wrongfully detained in Russia.

Oct. 18 marks the 243rd day of her detainment. The WNBA star was arrested in a Moscow airport in February for the alleged possession of hashish oil. She pleaded guilty to the charges, and on Aug. 4 she was sentenced to nine years in prison.

While the U.S. government’s efforts to free Griner and fellow American detainee Paul Whelan are ongoing, the Phoenix Mercury center’s absence looms large – particularly on her birthday.

Griner is scheduled to appear in court next week, on Oct. 25, as a judge will hear her appeal of her sentencing.

“We are not a family without Brittney Griner,” Team USA teammate Breanna Stewart wrote in a tweet that was echoed by Baylor coach Nicki Collen. “It’s time to BRING HER HOME.”

Tennis legend and women’s sports advocate Billie Jean King called on everyone to “continue to advocate for her release and bring her home.”

“How do you say Happy Birthday to someone who has been wrongfully detained for 243 days?” the WNBA Players Association asked in a tweet. The tweet included a video message from WNBA stars, including Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Jasmine Thomas and Allie Quigley, as well as South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and ESPN reporter Holly Rowe.

Staley and others shared stories of Griner with ESPN.

“I think of her every day,” said New York Liberty coach Sandy Brondello, who coached Griner on the Mercury from 2014 to 2021. “Not just the great player she developed into. She has this amazing laugh, which I can’t wait to hear again.”

Staley, who coached Griner at the 2018 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics as the USA Basketball coach, recalled one anecdote in particular. Griner was in a funk, Staley said, which the coach called out during the game. Griner later apologized to Staley for her reactions and thanked her for helping her out of it.

“Once she lets you in, you get the best of Brittney,” Staley said. “We were in Japan for the Olympics, and something ticked her off in practice. I went up to her and said, ‘You know, I actually like when you get mad and you get super focused and just execute what needs to get done.

“It takes a genuine person to just realize how they were acting and responding. I didn’t really think anything of it, but I appreciated that she processed it, and then she came back and took the responsibility. We laughed about it, because things happen and then you just keep it moving.

“BG is the ultimate professional, and she does her job. But she’s able to stop, evaluate something and then say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Sometimes, we don’t get that response enough in our sport and in our world.”

Staley has been vocal about calling for Griner’s release, tweeting out about her detainment nearly every day.

Mercury teammate Brianna Turner called Griner “humble” and “welcoming.”

“It’s wild to think that I last saw her in person a year ago; her birthday is obviously so different this time around,” she said. “I was able to send her a letter, though, and hopefully she will receive it on birthday.

“So many people that don’t personally know BG have so many various opinions about her. But I can honestly say BG is probably the warmest person I know. Her energy is infectious, and she is the first person willing to help someone in need.”