During his pre-game speech to the a packed house at Barclays Center, Kyrie Irving demanded that President Joe Biden take the actions necessary to bring Brittney Griner back to America. Before their 130-108 loss against the New Orleans Pelicans, the NBA superstar spoke to Celtics fans in the arena and millions watching at home.
In his speech, Irving first urged fans to cheer on the team and his teammates. However, the 30-year-old then swiftly directed the speech toward the topic of Brittney Griner. He directly called out Biden in the speech.
“I appreciate us being able to share this floor together, all of us as brothers,” the point guard said, “but the big picture that’s going in the world is free our sister, Brittney Griner, please!”
“POTUS, do your job!” he said. “Everybody do your job! Please bring our sister home.”
WNBA star Brittney Griner has been in a Russian jail since February of this year after being locked up by Russian authorities. Officials there discovered cannabis oil in her luggage at the airport. Reportedly, they found less than a gram of hash oil cartridges. Her trial began on July 1st, and she pled guilty to the charges. She received nine years at her sentencing on August 4th. She also paid a fine of $16,500.
Biden and other U.S. officials have repeatedly said they’re trying to bring Griner home, saying they’ve made offers to Russia to negotiate.
Earlier this week, Griner celebrated her 32nd birthday behind bars. On her birthday, her wife posted this Instagram video. In the video, Brittney’s wife Cherelle thanks President Biden for “the Administration’s efforts to secure her release.”
Stephen Curry Also Uses Season Opener to Raise Awareness of Brittney Griner’s Situation
Other NBA stars used their season-opening speeches to bring up Griner’s situation. Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said: “We want to continue to use our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community.”
“We want to continue to let her name be known,” he added. “It’s been 243 days since she’s been wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon.”
Regardless of next week’s ruling, Brittney Griner’s fate will remain in the hands of Russian officials. American authorities have said they haven’t received what they a “legitimate response” to their offer to swap at least one Russian prisoner for Griner.
Sources close to Griner believe that Russia won’t likely act until after the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 8. They feel as though a swap could boost Biden’s standing politically.
Griner’s family and American officials have been concerned that she’ll be sent to the prison camp she was sentenced to. There, conditions are harsher and she would be far more vulnerable to abuse from inmates and staff. However, her attorney Maria Blagovolina said even if the appeals court upholds the verdict, Griner probably won’t be moved soon.