WNBA star Brittney Griner, facing jail in Russia, sends a message to her supporter, on her 32nd birthday

Brittney Griner, the American WNBA basketball player whose appeal against a Russian prison sentence is set to be heard next week, thanked her supporters on Tuesday, her 32nd birthday.

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner/peakpx.com

Brittney Griner in Moscow

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested on Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport with cannabis oil-laced vape cartridges in her luggage, and she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on drug smuggling charges on Aug. 4. Her appeal will be heard next Tuesday.

“All the love and support are definitely helping me,” Griner was quoted as saying by her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, who visited her in the Moscow pre-trial detention center where she is being held.

Griner pleaded guilty during her trial but claimed she made an “honest mistake” and did not intend to break the law. In Russia, cannabis is illegal for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Staley, Auriemma, and others commemorate Brittney Griner’s birthday. They remember her laughter, hugs, sweet tooth, impressive skills, and love for her teammates. Brittney Griner will turn 32 on Tuesday, the 243rd day since she was wrongfully detained in Russia, and she will spend her birthday away from home, her loved ones and her basketball family.

“I think of her every day,” said Sandy Brondello, head coach of the New York Liberty from 2014 to 2021. “Not just the great player she became. She has this incredible laugh that I can’t wait to hear again.”

Brondello and others shared their favorite Griner memories, both on and off the court.

“There is such a human side to BG that a lot of people on the outside don’t know,” said Dawn Staley, former USA Basketball head coach. “I wish more people could see that and express themselves with the honesty that Brittney does.”

The US has been working hard to bring Griner home. There has been widespread speculation about a prisoner swap, with the US offering Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since December 2018.