Brittney Griner’s coach on Russian detention: ‘If it was LeBron, he would be home, right?’

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Brittney Griner’s coach, Vanessa Nygaard, suggested Monday that the WNBA superstar’s clout may be a factor in why there is not more of an urgency to get her out of a Russian jail.

Nygaard said before the team’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks, if LeBron James had been locked up abroad, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar would have been home by now.

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WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“If it was LeBron, he would be home, right?” she asked. “It is a statement about the value of women. It is a statement about the value of a Black person. It is a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. And we know it. And so, that’s what hurts a little more.”

Nygaard, who is in her first season as the Mercury’s head coach, said Griner’s letter to the White House made her cry.

“It’s great she was able to get that message to us. And hopefully some people are paying attention to it,” she added.

Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard looks on during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky on July 2, 2022, at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL.

Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard looks on during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky on July 2, 2022, at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL.
(Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Griner’s letter was delivered to the White House on Monday. She wanted to make sure President Joe Biden and the rest of his administration do not “forget about me and the other American detainees” in Russia.

WNBA STAR BRITTNEY GRINER’S WIFE LAMENTS BIDEN’S ‘DISHEARTENING’ SILENCE ON RUSSIAN DETAINMENT

Griner’s letter was passed to the White House through her representatives. Though most of the contents remained private, her representatives shared some excerpts.

“… As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” the WNBA superstar wrote.

“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Griner pleaded with Biden to use his presidential powers to ensure her return. She was arrested in February for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport.

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner (C) arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022.

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner (C) arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

“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,” the letter read in part. “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.”

The White House National Security Council confirmed the White House received Griner’s letter.

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“We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner,” NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Monday. “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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