Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard on Monday made remarks on the ongoing detainment of WNBA star Brittney Griner by Russian authorities, asking if Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James would be in detainment this long if he were in Griner’s position.
Speaking to reporters after her team’s loss to the Los Angeles Sparks, Nygaard showed her frustration with the delay of Griner’s return to U.S. soil, saying that Griner being a Black and openly gay woman makes it harder to gain awareness for her case, according to USA Today.
Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star, has been held in detainment by Russian authorities since February and is accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Nygaard asked the media. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”
Nygaard, who’s in her first season as the Mercury’s head coach, has been vocal about Griner’s case, comparing it to the case of Gabby Petito, whose disappearance and death last year gained national media attention.
“That white woman that was hiking, and we did everything to find her,” Nygaard said earlier this year, according to Arizona’s Cronkite News. “She was from Florida, and she went on a hike and her boyfriend killed her. How much attention went to that? BG hasn’t got half that attention. And that’s a crime. And that’s a statement about our society and who we value and we need to change that.”
The White House announced on Wednesday that President Biden and Vice President Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, to offer support to the family as the trial resumes in Brittney Griner’s case.
Griner, an Olympic Gold medalist, wrote a letter to Biden over the holiday weekend, urging him and other top officials to do anything they can to bring her home. The State Department said months earlier that Griner’s case is a “top priority” for it.
“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,” Griner wrote in her letter to Biden.