Kyrie Irving Sends Strong Message to U.S. Government Over Brittney Griner

Kyrie Irving

Getty Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets.

Kyrie Irving is no stranger to making political statements. In fact, his desire to do so involved pleas for players to participate in sitting out of the entire NBA bubble in protest of issues of police brutality and racial inequality. He also cites being a “voice for the voiceless” as a reason for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it meant being unable to play in Nets home games. Now he is speaking out for another just cause, and that is the safe return of WNBA star Brittney Griner from being ‘wrongfully detained’ in Russia. 

Griner, has been detained in Russia since February 17 after vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil were allegedly found in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. As of April 29, 2022, Griner was officially classified as a Wrongful Detention by the U.S. State Department, which signals that the U.S. government will seek to negotiate her release.

Kyrie Irving Calls on the White House for Change

Kyrie spoke out on May 28 calling upon The White House in a tweet saying, “Brittney Griner has been illegally detained in Russia since February 17th, 2022. I’m urging the @WhiteHouse to prioritize Brittney’s safe return home immediately! #WeAreBG” 

The words of Irving’s tweet match the language near the end of the petition that Irving linked to in his post. 

“White House and Biden Administration, we ask that you take action today – doing whatever is necessary – to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely.” says the petition. 

The petition was launched on by activist, author, and journalist Tamryn Spruill with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) on the 100th day that Griner has been detained in Russia. 

Despite being one of the most popular players in the WNBA, Griner plays overseas in offseasons due to the “substantially bigger contracts” offered abroad than are presently available for women’s basketball players in the U.S. 

Due to the pay inequality, more than half of WNBA players spend time playing abroad for the financial security it provides. Griner was there playing for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a Russian women’s basketball team based in Yekaterinburg. The two-time Olympic gold medalist with the United States faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.  

Calls For Action

Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has spoken to Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, about Griner’s case but has yet to speak with the President. 

Since being officially declared as wrongfully detained, talks around pushing for Griner to be returned to the United States have amplified. Forbes reported that there has been an offer to Russia for an exchange that would bring Griner home. 

“In an effort to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from detention in Russia, the Biden administration has offered to make a prisoner swap involving a convicted arms dealer, Forbes has learned,” Forbes Sports said in a tweet. 

The calls from the WNBPA have helped bring extra attention to the cause, and as of 10:00 pm on May 28, it has nearly 210,000 of the goal of 300,000, with it being live less than 24 hours. 

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