Eight months on from her detainment in Moscow, Brittney Griner is celebrating her 32nd birthday in a Russian jail instead of with her family.
The American basketball star released a message on Tuesday, saying she had been buoyed by the support she has received, according to a statement shared by Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm.
“Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me,” Griner said in her message, according to the statement.
Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, spent a few hours with Griner on Tuesday and relayed numerous birthday wishes to her, the statement said.
In a video released as part of the campaign Cherelle said, “I’ve felt every moment of the grueling seven months without her.”
She thanked those who have supported the cause as well as specifically mentioning Joe Biden saying, “I want to thank President Biden for the Administration’s efforts to secure her release.”
Griner was detained in February when entering Russia for possession of cannabis oil. The center pleaded guilty to drug charges, saying that she accidentally packed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil when in a hurry.
In August, the eight-time WNBA All-Star was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison. Next week her legal team will appeal the decision to the Moscow region court.
After her arrest, U.S. State Department classified Griner as wrongfully detained, meaning that regardless of her legal status in Russia, the US government will seek to negotiate her release.
In July, it was announced by the US government that they had made a “substantial proposal” to bring Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US marine serving a 16-year sentence in Russia, back to the US.
But since that announcement there has been little information on moves made to release the two-time Olympic gold medalist and the US Embassy in Russia has not had consular access to Griner since early August, State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed last week.
Griner’s friends and family have sought to renew the support and pressure to bring her home with the #WeAreBG campaign.
Her USA teammate Breanna Stewart wrote on Twitter, “We are not a family without #BrittneyGriner. It’s time to BRING HER HOME. #WeAreBG. Today marks eight months of her Wrongful Detention. She needs her family now more than ever. BG – we have not forgotten you, and we will not rest until you’re home.”
The tweet followed a FIBA World Cup victory that, if she was not in prison, Griner would have been a part of.
Stewart, along with Griner’s USA teammates and other WNBA players have also shown solidarity with the Pheonix Mercury player by boycotting playing in Russia during the WNBA offseason.
Players regularly ply their trade for European teams during the offseason to supplement their WNBA salaries, with many like Griner and Stewart having played for teams in Russia.
But this year, players have instead opted to play in different European countries.
Courtney Vandersloot who has previously played with Griner at the Russian club team Yekaterinburg said: “The whole situation with BG makes it really hard to think that it’s safe for anyone to go back there right now.”
Other American athletes such as Alex Morgan have shown their support on social media by posting images of them wearing an image of Griner on her shirt.
In addition to asking people to join the movement and petition to free Griner, the #WeAreBG campaign has also asked people to write notes for Griner as they hope that this will be the last birthday she celebrates in prison.