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How Liberty letter-writing campaign helped Brittney Griner get back to hoops and life

A year ago, Brittney Griner was in a Russian prison when the WNBA held its annual All-Star Game. On Saturday night, she received a thunderous ovation in Las Vegas and helped her team win.

Phoenix Mercury v Seattle Storm Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Family comes in all different forms. In all walks of life, having people that are behind you goes a long way. They’re there for you at your lowest moments, pick you up when you need a helping hand, and cheer your brightest moments. It makes for an overwhelmingly positive experience that can carry you through the toughest times imaginable. And when you have the world behind you, that makes things even more special.

On July 5, the New York Liberty hosted the Phoenix Mercury at the Barclays Center. The fans were treated to a Breanna Stewart masterclass as the home team beat the Mercs. While the building was rocking for the great hoops on display, the Brooklyn community made their presence felt in another part of the ‘clays.

At the first Liberty vs. Mercury game on June 18, the Liberty held a special event with the Bring Our Families Home (BOFH) campaign. The campaign advocates for the safe and immediate return home of Americans wrongly detained overseas. BOFH has worked to uplift the people detained overseas and keep their memories alive. Last summer, they unveiled a mural in Washington DC for Americans that have been wrongly detained overseas. When the Liberty were in DC last summer, they paid a visit to the mural in support of their friend and peer that was wrongly detained, Brittney Griner.

It’s been seven months since Griner was freed after being wrongfully detained in Russia for 294 days in 2022. Since her return home, BG and the WNBA have worked to uplift the work of the BOFH campaign and use their platform to highlight and amplify the tireless advocacy from the campaign

BG missed the first game in Brooklyn as she was out with a hip injury. She played in the second game and looked like her All-Star self as she scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked two shots as the Mercury went on a second half comeback. It was a fun, competitive night as the fans in Brooklyn got to shower BG with love and watch her play a great, back and forth game against the home team. Now that BG is back, the WNBA is truly whole again.

In postgame, Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press asked Griner how she felt about getting the message out in support of people that are wrongfully detained, and she said:

“It means everything to me. Getting those letters, people writing those letters, you don’t know how much it means when you’re in that situation and you get a letter like that. You don’t feel forgotten. It’s so easy to feel forgotten when you’re there, so just being able to get those letters and keep that going for other families, it just brings so much hope. [Being wrongfully detained overseas] is a dangerous thing, but [the letters] bring so much hope.”

Liberty CEO, Keia Clarke, spoke about the letter writing campaign and said:

“The New York Liberty are proud to support Britney Griner and the Bring Our Families Home Campaign. Over the course of two games, we were able to raise awareness, educate, and provide Liberty fans the opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals who are wrongfully detained overseas, by sending messages of compassion and encouragement, or by prompting elected officials to take action.”

That effort to raise awareness and involve the fans was not lost on the Liberty faithful. At the letter-writing station, I had the pleasure of speaking to Liberty fan, Maya Goldberg-Safir. She praised the team’s efforts in coordinating with the BOFH campaign, the fans who participated in the campaign, and acknowledged BG’s advocacy in speaking up for wrongfully detained Americans. The WNBA has focused a lot on issues of justice and fairness, and I asked Goldberg-Safir about how this campaign builds upon that work:

“Brittney Griner’s wrongful detainment pushed the W into a political space that they’ve never been in before and nobody knew what to do when it happened. It was really uncomfortable. And I feel really grateful that folks from Wasserman, the W and from the league were willing to learn about this issue and consult with people who are really experts like the Bring Our Families Home campaign and take a stand on something that they had never been faced with before. I think it’s really really, really cool.”

After the first game, Breanna Stewart and Jocelyn Willoughby spoke about the importance of the campaign and athletes using their platforms to speak on issues affecting the community. Sports is a global, connecting experience and having a league like the WNBA use their platform and devote resources to making the world a better, safer place is essential. Players and fans are invested in the betterment of the community around them, and it shows on and off the court. That education, collaboration, commitment, and dedication goes a long way.

Towards the end of her media availability, BG was asked what message she wanted to share with the world:

“Value the present because tomorrow, you never know what’s gonna happen. You never know when you’re not gonna be able to pick up that phone call. I feel like so many times I’ve overlooked a phone call or something like that or missed out on an experience. So just, living life and valuing everything in the present.”

Words for us to live by.