Rev. Al Sharpton calls for release of WNBA star Brittney Griner

“We stand rock solid behind Brittney Griner,” Sharpton said at a news conference in Chicago as the WNBA kicked off festivities leading up to its All-Star Game on Sunday at Wintrust Arena.

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Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a press conference in Chicago on Friday.

Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a press conference in Chicago on Friday to call for the release of professional basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for five months on drug charges. She pleaded guilty to drug possession on Thursday.

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The WNBA All-Star Weekend is underway and while Brittney Griner can’t be in Chicago to play in the game, she is not forgotten.

Griner has been detained in Russia for nearly five months and on Thursday pleaded guilty in a Russian court to drug possession.

Friday in Chicago, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton pleaded with Russian officials to release Griner, the WNBA superstar who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury.

“Bring Brittney home, bring her home to her wife. We are going to stand with her until you do,” Sharpton said. “We also know there ought to be a place where conflicts stop and where the politics stop and the international rivalry stops and some people can operate above that.”

Sharpton joined Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner; Nneka Ogwumike, a power forward for the Los Angeles Sparks and president of the WNBA Players Association; Terri Jackson, executive director of the players association; and Sue Bird, the Seattle Storm point guard who is the players association vice president.

Griner, a seven-time WNBA all-star, was playing for a Russian team during the WNBA’s off-season to earn extra income. She was detained in March at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow and accused of having hash oil in her luggage.

In pleading guilty, Griner faces up to 10 years in a penal colony.

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

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a Russian courtroom on Thursday, where she would plead guilty to drug possession.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

During the All-Star Weekend, Griner is being honored and celebrated for her work on and off the court.

“We stand rock solid behind Brittney Griner at this stage in which she is going through,” Sharpton said. “She’s a champion on the court — a champion that should’ve been on the court this weekend — but she was a champion yesterday when she stood and said ‘I may have done something unintentional, I will own that.’”

Sharpton said Griner doesn’t know what the outcome will be but at least she stood up and owned a mistake — an example young people should look up to.

“She didn’t see Russian fans any different than American fans,” Sharpton said. “She saw all of them as fans that deserved the right to see woman play basketball.”

Cherelle Griner, wife of professional basketball player Brittney Griner, spoke at a news conference in Chicago on Friday.

Cherelle Griner, wife of professional basketball player Brittney Griner, spoke at a news conference in Chicago on Friday, pleading with Russia to release her wife. Griner pleaded guilty Thursday in a Russian court but denied intending to break the law.

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Earlier this week, Cherelle Griner broke her silence over her spouse’s detention and the lack of a response from President Joe Biden’s administration. On Friday, she said, Biden had issued a letter to Griner voicing his support and vowing to do more.

“I’m grateful and I’m thankful that the administration — that was the first one ‘BG’ ever voted for — took the time to see her as a person, to see her in the midst of what she’s going through,” Cherelle Griner said.

Cherelle Griner said she spoke directly with Biden, who told her the United States is exploring all avenues to bring Griner back home.

“I understand what they are doing is very challenging due to the circumstances with Russia and the United States right now,” Cherelle Griner said.

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