“I’m No Stranger To Hard Times”: Brittney Griner Fights Back Tears In First Press Conference Since Russian Imprisonment

Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Brittney Griner will not play overseas again unless it is with the U.S. national team. 

The WNBA star spoke for the first time since returning home after being detained in Russia for ten months. According to ESPN, Griner said playing overseas would not be considered unless it’s traveling to play with the U.S. national team for the Olympics.

“I’m never going overseas to play again unless it’s to represent my country,” Griner said. “The whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap … to support our families, to support ourselves. So I don’t knock any player that wants to go overseas,” she said. 

“I’m hoping that our league continues to grow. I hope a lot [more] companies start to invest in our craft,” she added.

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Griner quickly fielded media questions after a brief statement. In her first response, when asked about her resilience, Griner paused and was noticeably emotional, fighting back tears as she answered.

“I’m no stranger to hard times,” she replied. “Just digging deep, honestly. You’re going to be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one. But I just kind of relied on my hard work, getting through it. I know this sounds so small– but dying in practice and just hard workouts– you find a way to just grind it out…you keep moving forward.”

Griner continues her advocacy for other Americans being detained overseas as she starts training camp in May and prepares to make a return to the basketball court. The 32-year-old Houston native, who will soon start her 10th season with the Phoenix Mercury, also announced that she and the team have partnered with the Bring Our Families Home (BOFH) organization.

The organization advocates for Americans who are being held hostage or are wrongfully detained in other countries. There are currently 54 Americans in that condition in seven different countries, according to BOFH, some of whom have been detained for more than ten years.

In place of the BG42 emblem the Mercury had last season while Griner was being held in custody, a BOFH logo will be displayed on their court for home games. There is currently a mural of Griner and other Americans who are detained outside the Footprint Center in Arizona. Additionally, the Mercury will host the families and friends of the detainees and have letter-writing booths where supporters can contact the detainees and express their support.

“I’m No Stranger To Hard Times”: Brittney Griner Fights Back Tears In First Press Conference Since Russian Imprisonment
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – APRIL 27: Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury (C) poses with (L-R) artist Antoinette Cauley, Brittney’s wife Cherelle Griner, Neda Sharghi and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs in front of the “Bring Our Families Home” mural at Footprint Center on April 27, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Griner was jailed in Russia for almost 10 months in 2022. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Griner said that writing letters to people helped her get through her detention and that she finds it difficult to deal with knowing what other Americans are currently through.

“It’s hard. You know I come from a military family,” Griner said. “I have that mindset … no one left behind. It hurts because no one should be in those conditions that I went through and they’re going through. I hope everyone continues to bring awareness and fight to bring home everyone.”

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