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LeBron James rips US government over Griner case

LeBron James weighed into Brittney Griner’s imprisonment in Russia, claiming the US government has not done enough to help her.

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 08: LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers attends a game between the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 08, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Ethan Miller/Getty Images,/AFP
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LeBron James has criticised the United States government for its handling of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s imprisonment in Russia.

James addressed the issue in a trailer for his online talk show, “The Shop: Uninterrupted.”

“Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” the Los Angeles Lakers forward said. “I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?’”

The episode will air in its entirety Friday on YouTube.

Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 for carrying vape cartridges that allegedly contained cannabis products.

Last week, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard referenced James in her plea for officials to act more quickly.

“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” Nygaard said. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement 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.”

Griner remains in Russian custody

The sports community has continued to advocate for Griner’s return to the US over the last five months, but she remains in Russian custody while the war in Ukraine continues to cause tension between Washington and Moscow.

The WNBA held its All-Star Game Sunday in Chicago, with Griner’s detention receiving plenty of attention. Players on both teams wore Griner’s No. 42 and name on their jerseys during the second half.

In recent weeks, both Griner and her wife Cherelle have had correspondence with President Joe Biden, but the administration has not publicly declared a plan for her return.

Griner entered a guilty plea last Thursday in Russian court, saying she packed the cartridges accidentally. ESPN reported over the weekend that Griner’s plea could be part of a strategy to facilitate a prisoner exchange that could also include former US Marine Paul Whelan, who is also being detained in Russia.

In June, the US State Department classified Griner as being wrongfully detained.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated that returning the prisoners to the US remains a priority.

“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” Blinken said on Twitter last week.

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