(Phoenix) Four months after the end of her nightmare, Brittney Griner, detained for ten months in Russia, is gradually regaining the habits of a high-level basketball player, but her career will no longer take her abroad and will also be devoted to those wrongfully detained outside the United States, she promised.
Three weeks before the start of the 2023 WNBA season, the North American Women’s Basketball League, it is an imposed figure for the best players in the most demanding championship on the planet.
But Brittney Griner’s Thursday press conference in Phoenix was eagerly awaited, well beyond the world of basketball: the one who is one of the figures of the LGBT community in the United States spoke publicly for the first time since her returned to the United States after being sentenced in Russia to nine years in prison for drug trafficking according to Russian authorities.
His team, the Mercury, may have warned upstream that it would not speak about his ten months of detention in Russia and his ordeal which ended after an exchange against the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, detained in the United States, Griner did not want to limit his answers to basketball.
She even took the opportunity to lend her support to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and ex-US Marine Paul Whelan who are currently being held in Russia.
“I would say to anyone wrongfully detained: stay strong, keep fighting, don’t give up,” said Griner, arrested in February 2022 at a Moscow airport with a vape and liquid containing cannabis. a product banned in Russia.
“Keep believing,” she continued, “cause we won’t stop, we won’t stop fighting, we won’t stop bringing attention to everyone who are currently far from us,” the 32-year-old continued.
As she writes a book about her detention which should be released in 2024, the double Olympic champion (2016, 2020) explained how she held on during her stay in a penal colony in Mordovia, nicknamed the “land of prisons”. .
“Stay awake, find a little routine and stick to it as best you can, that’s what helped me,” she insisted.
To support her detention, her experience as a high-level player, marked by a WNBA championship title, four Euroleague titles and two world crowns with the United States, was invaluable.
“You know, I’ve been through some tough times,” she admitted, her voice cracking with emotion. “Throughout life, we face adversity. And this one was strong.”
But what helped her a lot, she recalled, was knowing that people were fighting for her release in the United States: “The information sometimes came a little late […] gave hope, which can also be dangerous because when it doesn’t work, it’s terrible.”
One certainty, Griner will no longer wear the jersey of a foreign club, as she has done every offseason since her debut in the WNBA championship in 2013.
“I say it clearly: I would not go to play abroad anymore, except when I represent my country at the Olympics. If I am selected, this will be the only reason for me to leave the American territory,” she warned.
Since 2015, once her season in the United States was over, Grinner had been playing for Russian club Yekaterinburg and it was when she was about to join this team that she was arrested on February 17, 2022 from the United States. United.
“A lot of us go abroad for the money it brings, because it allows us to support our families,” she recalled.
The second part of his career will officially begin on May 19, with a game in Los Angeles.