Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard on Brittney Griner’s detainment: ‘If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?’

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner will remain in Russia for the foreseeable future as her trial plays out, but her WNBA coach believes her legal situation would have already been resolved if she starred for an NBA team.

During her Monday media availability, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard was asked for her thoughts on recent comments from Chicago Sky coach James Wade, who argued that the U.S. government would have reacted differently if Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady had been detained. Nygaard offered her own comparison, suggesting there would have been a swift response to the detainment of Lakers forward LeBron James.

MORE: Brittney Griner detainment in Russia timeline

“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Nygaard said. “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.”

Griner has been detained in Russia for months, and it is unclear when she will be able to return to the United States. The 31-year-old, who has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February after the Russian Federal Customs Service claimed it found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.

In a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Monday, Griner expressed fear that she might be stuck in Russia “forever.” 

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other detainees,” Griner wrote. “Please do all you can to bring us home.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Tuesday that President Biden had read Griner’s letter, saying that this issue is “a priority for this president.”

“We believe she is wrongfully detained,” Jean-Pierre said. “We believe she needs to come home.”

Griner’s trial began in a Moscow court on Friday. A prosecutor claimed that Griner smuggled less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner did not enter a plea or make any comments on the charges.

The next hearing of the trial is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

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