‘Because of you I never lost hope’: Brittney Griner pens heartfelt letter to fans

Days after arriving in the United States after being released from a Russian penal colony as part of a prisoner swap, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner has shared an open letter to her fans, offering her thanks and making a request.

>> Read more trending news

In the letter, posted to Griner’s Instagram account, Griner offered her thanks to those who fought for months for her to be released from Russian custody.

“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months. You took time to show me you cared and I want to personally take the time to write to you and say that our effort mattered. Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time when I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could never have imagined. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Because of you I never lost hope.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time WNBA All-Star, was convicted of drug-related charges in Russia and sentenced to nine years in a Russian jail. After months of negotiations, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a prisoner exchange of Brittany Griner for convicted firearms dealer Viktor Bout, The Associated Press reported.

The prisoner exchange did not include former marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in Russia since 2018. Whelan had expressed disappointment in not being included in the exchange, and many Republicans offered public criticism of the deal because of Whelan’s exclusion, Reuters reported. Biden has said his administration is continuing its efforts to bring Whelan home.

In her letter, Griner encouraged her fans to support Whelan, saying, “My family’s whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together. However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongly detained. Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the WeAreBG Campaign to bring me home and it’s our turn to support them. I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”