LeBron James questions if detained Griner wants to go home
LeBron James has been forced into a rapid U-turn after questioning if US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who is detained in Russia on drugs charges, would even want to return to her homeland.
In a short clip shared from James’ talk show ‘The Shop: Uninterrupted’, the four-time NBA champion was heard discussing Griner’s case.
“Now, how can she feel like America has her back? I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?’” James asked.
The comments were an apparent criticism of the US government’s efforts to secure the release of Griner, who has been detained in Russia since mid-February.
But the remarks were seized on by some who accused James of disrespecting the US, or even suggesting that Griner might be better off inside a Russian prison.
The LA Lakers star promptly took to social media to state that he did not intend to insult his homeland.
“My comments on ‘The Shop’ regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country,” tweeted James.
“I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome.”
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My comments on “The Shop” regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country. I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 13, 2022
Griner, 31, is widely considered among the greatest female basketball players of all time.
She was traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, something she has done for the past several years.
She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport just outside Moscow after arriving on a flight from New York on February 17, with a search of her luggage uncovering banned hashish oil vape cartridges.
Griner’s trial formally began earlier this month and if convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison.
The 6ft 9in star has already entered a guilty plea at a hearing last week and said that the cartridges were packed in her bag unintentionally. Her trial will resume on Thursday at Khimki City Court just outside Moscow.
US officials have claimed that the arrest of the two-time Olympic champion is politically motivated and have classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”
The Kremlin has denied those claims, saying it has no role in the legal process and that Griner must face Russian law just like anyone else.
The Biden administration has been accused of not doing more to secure Griner’s release, with the basketball star’s wife, Cherelle Griner, being openly critical of government efforts.
It was revealed last week that Brittney Griner had penned a handwritten letter to Biden, which the president read and replied to. The US leader has also spoken to Cherelle Griner about her spouse’s case.
That conversation appears to have come after James’ comments were recorded, with the full episode of ‘The Shop’ due to be released on Friday.
Griner’s coach at her US team the Phoenix Mercury, Vanessa Nygaard, has asserted that if it were James who was being held in Russia, the authorities would be far more active in trying to help.
“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Nygaard said, before claiming the situation was “a statement about the value of women… about the value of a black person.”
“It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more,” Nygaard added.