Former Olympic coach pushes for Brittney Griner's safe return as Russian trial begins

Brittney Griner trial
Posted at 5:55 AM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 20:42:29-04

As Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner’s trial begins in Russia, many are working to keep her story top of mind here in the United States.

ABC15 spoke to Griner’s former Olympic coach, Dawn Staley, who’s taken to social media almost daily to try to keep Griner’s case at the forefront.

Brittney Griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 1, 2022. U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is set to go on trial in a Moscow-area court Friday. The proceedings that are scheduled to begin Friday come about 4 1/2 months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Staley’s posts are similar: a photo of her shirt she’s wearing that day with a pin that reads, “We Are BG,” along with a caption numbering the days Griner has been in detainment.

“She’s a good person. She has a great heart. She is, you know, someone that looks out for the voiceless. She supplies sneakers to the homeless, to the needy, and I don’t think we’re hearing enough about that,” Staley said. “I don’t think we’re hearing enough about what’s been happening to get her released.”

Staley is currently the head women’s basketball coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks, but also helped coach Griner through two gold medals for Team USA.

Staley said she considers Griner and her wife, Cherelle, to be friends of hers. She’s known Griner for about a decade.

“I want Brittney home. I just feel for her family. I feel for her. I feel for our women’s basketball community. I feel for her friends,” Staley said.

Aces Mercury Basketball
A floor decal in front of the scorer's table pays tribute to Phoenic Mercury's Brittney Griner before a WNBA basketball game between the Mercury and the Las Vegas Aces, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Phoenix. Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after authorities at the Moscow airport said they found vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis in her luggage. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

If convicted, the star center could face up to a decade in a Russian prison. She’d then need the United States government to make a prisoner exchange with Russia involving her.

Coach Staley said she hopes people here in America keep the pressure and the attention on BG’s case to bring her home, and every American prisoner being wrongfully detained home as well.

“They all need to get home to their families,” Staley said. “I just hope that people can find it in their hearts to put good energy into bringing Brittney home.”

Staley encouraged people to call their representatives in Congress, call the White House, and go support the Mercury by going to their games and holding up signs in support of Griner to keep the spotlight on her case.

Brittney Griner
A fan holds up a sign urging other fans to call and pressure the White House to free seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner from Russian custody during the second half of a WNBA basketball game between the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm, Sunday, June 19, 2022, in New York. The Storm won 81-72. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

It’s notable to say that 99 percent of cases in Russia are convictions.

Last weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN he would not comment in detail on what they’re doing as far as Griner’s situation and other American prisoners wrongfully detained, other than that it is a top priority for the Biden administration.