Wade admonishes U.S. for ‘disgusting’ treatment of Brittney Griner as she goes on trial in Russia
Griner is 135 days into her detainment in Russia and one day into her trial on drug charges, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Brittney Griner should have been in Chicago on Saturday as her Mercury faced the Sky at Wintrust Arena. Instead, she’s 135 days into her detainment in Russia and one day into her trial on drug charges, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Griner was arrested Feb. 17, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. On Friday, the first day of the trial, Griner was accused by the prosecutor of carrying vape cartridges with traces of cannabis oil. U.S. officials determined in May that Griner is being wrongfully detained.
Griner is a four-time Euroleague champion with Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg, in addition to her two Olympic gold medals and one WNBA title.
As the WNBA season goes on, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, teammates and peers continue to urge President Joe Biden to secure her release. But they feel as though they’re talking into a dead mic.
‘‘We have a woman who represents everything that we’re supposed to stand for that’s sitting in a prison,’’ Sky general manager/coach James Wade said. ‘‘And we’re just making posts. She’s played for our country and brought our country glory, and this is how we’re treating her. It’s disgusting.’’
Wade, who was back on the court for the first time since entering health-and-safety protocols last Sunday, said it’s as if Griner has been abandoned. He specifically referred to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow failing to staff a phone line, preventing Griner and her wife from speaking on a scheduled call. Griner reportedly made 11 attempts in several hours to connect using the number provided by the embassy.
Griner is an honorary starter in the WNBA All-Star Game next Sunday at Wintrust Arena, but that gives her supporters no comfort. The Women’s National Basketball Players Association is petitioning the White House and State Department, with 291,088 signatures and counting as of Saturday, but Wade questioned why that’s even necessary.
‘‘[The White House] knows where [Griner] is,’’ Wade said. ‘‘She’s been there for four months. Why do we have to sign a petition? Let’s pretend it’s Tom Brady. Would we have to sign a petition then?’’
A number of fans behind the Mercury’s bench for the Sky’s 91-75 victory Saturday held signs that displayed different iterations of the message ‘‘Free BG.’’ At every Sky home game this season, fans have displayed signs and worn apparel in support of Griner.
Allie Quigley led the Sky with 19 points and five rebounds. Candace Parker added 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. The bench scored 32 points as all 11 players scored.
The Sky’s winning streak is at five with two games left before the All-Star break, Wednesday at the Lynx and Thursday at the Fever.
Also Saturday, All-Star captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart drafted their teams. Wilson selected Parker with the first overall pick and Courtney Vandersloot with the 12th pick. Stewart selected Kahleah Copper ninth and Emma Meesseman 17th. Aces coach Becky Hammon will lead Team Wilson, and Wade will guide Team Stewart.
‘‘I told Stewie, ‘Make sure we have all our players,’ ’’ Wade said, laughing. ‘‘Stewie just doesn’t care.’’