December 9, 2022


healthy part of faith

Griner advocates flock to Toyota Center, chant ‘Bring Brittney home!’

4 min read

With chants and shouts of “Bring Brittney home!” echoing through the plaza in front of Toyota Center, an emotional rally and prayer vigil was held Monday, with attendees demanding that Houston native and basketball icon Brittney Griner be freed from a Russian jail where she has been held since February.

After several hours of exuberant chants and music, fitting of a rally, Trevor Reed, a former United States Marine who was released from Russia in a prisoner exchange in April, concluded the event with a straightforward and moving gut punch of a message.

“Every day you are in prison there, it’s like you’re waking up into a nightmare,” Reed said. “Every single day when you wake up, you can’t understand that it is really happening to you.

“It is extremely important to bring Americans home and for the community and citizens getting involved and getting loud to do that.”

Reed spoke of his nearly three years of mistreatment in Russia — during which he experienced health issues, injuries that went untreated and malnutrition — as he called for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a United States-based security expert who has been held in Russia since December 2018.

“Those conditions are what Brittney and Paul are living in right now as we’re having this conversation,” Reed said. “They live in a cell that looks like something out of the Middle Ages. As Americans, you can’t imagine what that place looks like until you see that for yourselves. The justice system is just as medieval. There is no justice in Russia. They will not receive a fair trial. They will be there as hostages until the United States gets them out.”

Much of the rally was focused on the demand that Griner be brought home.

“We are not going to back down, because we want Brittney to come home,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said. “We want to shout as loud as we can for her family to hear us, for Cherelle (Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife) to hear us, her mom and dad to hear us.

“Just as our military has trained me to know, no one is left on the battlefield. We as Americans should always embrace our own. We stand today with a congressional demand to H-Res 1132 to be able to say that we want Brittney home. Release her immediately. Immediately. And as we are the first in the nation to raise our voices, we want to share this, and we want you around the nation to remember Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”

Jackson Lee called Griner “a hostage that needs to be released right now,” sparking another round of chants of “Bring Brittney home.”

Griner, an All-American at Nimitz High School and Baylor, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States and an All-WNBA player with the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained since Feb. 17, when, upon her arrival in Moscow, vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly found in her luggage.

She faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. But on April 29, the United States State Department officially classified Griner as wrongfully detained.

Former Comets players Sheryl Swoopes and Monica Lamb, Rockets coach Stephen Silas, assistant coach John Lucas, former players Calvin Murphy, Moochie Norris and Purvis Short, Rockets president of basketball operations Gretchen Sheirr, and rapper Paul Wall were among the crowd.

Many state representatives and city councilmembers also attended. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Griner “represents what this city is all about.”

“I have the privilege of saying, ‘Therefore I, Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston, proudly proclaim this day as Brittney Griner day in the city of Houston,’” Turner said. “Bring Brittney home.

“This is someone who literally has given everything to this city, to this state and to this country, somebody who went to the Olympics in 2016 and 2020 and won the gold, somebody who seven times has been (an All-Star). The WNBA is here. The NBA is here. People from all parts of our city are here. I just want to join the chorus to say, ‘Bring Brittney home. And bring here home now.’”

On Saturday, Boston Celtics players wore black shirts with the message “We are BG” in orange letters on the front and a QR code on the back, linking to an online petition in support of gaining Griner’s release.

“It’s been now over 100 days since she’s been illegally held in Russia,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week. “I think it’s something that all of us should be heard on, contacting your representatives and others. I will only say we are working in lockstep with the U.S. government and outside experts on trying to expedite her release in any way we can. Certainly, our hearts go out to her and her family, and we are just as eager for her safe return.”

On Tuesday, Reed’s message was clear.

“We need to speak out for all Americans,” Reed said. “I think if we are able to accomplish that, the support is going to really put pressure on the White House, on Congress and our representatives in Congress to get this done. These guys want to help, but they need you to help them. You have to tell them what you want done. You want Brittney home, you want Paul home, and you want it done right now.”