Watch CBS News

Brittney Griner pens handwritten letter to Biden from Russian prison: "I'm terrified I might be here forever"

Brittney Griner writes letter to Biden from prison
WNBA star Brittney Griner urges Biden to help in letter from prison 01:25

A handwritten letter from Brittney Griner was delivered to the White House on Monday morning, according to the Griner family, who provided excerpts to reporters. In her letter, the imprisoned WNBA star pleaded with the president not to forget her, and said her already deep appreciation for Independence Day has taken on new meaning this year. 

"I'm terrified I might be here forever," wrote Griner, who has been detained in Russia since mid-February. "On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year." 

Griner, whose trial began last week, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after Russia claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage. A Russian judge ordered Griner, the Phoenix Mercury center who played in Russia during the WNBA off-season, to remain in custody for the trial's duration. 

The U.S. has said Griner is being wrongfully detained

The White House on Tuesday said bringing Griner home is a "priority," and said it is "closely coordinating" with a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.  

"You saw the work that his administration did to bring home Trevor Reed, that is the same work, the same focus that we did and put behind bringing Trevor Reed home, we're going to do the same with Brittney Griner and others," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. 

Griner noted in the letter that she voted for Mr. Biden in 2020, the first time she voted. "I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore," she wrote. 

While some supporters back a prisoner swap, Griner's detention and trial come at a low point in U.S.-Russia relations amid the war in Ukraine

"We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner. President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means — to bring her home," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement on Monday. "The President's team is in regular contact with Brittney's family and we will continue to work to support her family."

Griner's wife, Cherelle, and family had no further comment on the letter. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.