Rapinoe lectures sports stars to ‘put pressure on Putin’
The American soccer player seized her chance on stage at the ESPYS awards ceremony
Megan Rapinoe says sport has the « collective power » to pressure Russia and President Vladimir Putin to release American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who is on trial in Russia for drug trafficking.
Speaking at the ESPYS ceremony which honored sporting talent on Wednesday night, football player turned social justice warrior Rapinoe urged those in attendance to do more to help Griner.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17 after banned hash oil vapor canisters were found in her luggage at an airport just outside Moscow.
“I honestly think what we witnessed tonight is the importance of sport and all that we can bring and all that we can do in the world with our collective power,” Rapinoe told the audience.
"We like it. … We miss her. … We’re doing everything we can to get her out."
—Megan Rapinoe took a moment to greet Brittney Griner at the ESPYS pic.twitter.com/5JDFj74bLS
— Sports Center (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2022
« The most striking thing for me is that BG [Brittney Griner] is not there… BG deserves to be free, she is detained as a political prisoner, obviously.
“I don’t think I’m getting political, but I love doing politics. We probably won’t bring her out tonight, and everyone should enjoy the night, and we should all celebrate [the occasion].
« But tomorrow and the day after, and next week, every time we see BG’s face, every time we say his name, it puts pressure on everyone – it puts pressure on the administration, it puts pressure on Russia, it puts pressure on Putin.
« It also lets BG know that we love her, miss her, and do whatever we can to bring her out, » added Rapinoe.
Men’s basketball star Steph Curry, who co-hosted, also took the opportunity at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles to call for Griner’s release.
« As we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sporting community to continue to stay energized on their behalf, » said the four-time NBA champion.
“She is one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and all over the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or world conflicts.
Griner’s trial is set to resume at Khimki City Court just outside the Russian capital later this month.
The 31-year-old has already pleaded guilty, but said the canisters of hash oil accidentally ended up in her luggage when she was in a rush to pack.
Griner was traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason in her native country, which she has been doing since 2015.
If convicted, she faces up to ten years in a Russian prison.
US officials have officially classified Griner as « wrongfully detained », with claims that Russia is using him as a political pawn for a possible prisoner exchange later.
Unconfirmed reports cited Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison on arms trafficking allegations, as a potential trade.
Kremlin and Russian Foreign Ministry officials have dismissed the claims, arguing that Griner has to deal with Russian law like anyone else and shouldn’t get preferential treatment just because she’s foreign.
« We urge the US authorities not to exploit this sensitive file affecting the fate of certain individuals, and we advise them to abandon futile attempts to pressure us, » he added.Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier this month.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, criticized the Biden administration, saying she lacked confidence in their efforts to secure the release of the two-time Olympic champion.
READ MORE: Biden reads detained Griner’s letter but player’s wife is ‘disheartened’