Brittney Griner has written to President Joe Biden with an urgent plea: "Please don't forget about me."
The message from the WNBA star was delivered via a letter she handwrote from the Russian jail where she has been held since being arrested in February at a Moscow airport on drug charges. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
"As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever," Griner wrote.
Representatives for Griner shared sections of the letter with BuzzFeed News and other media outlets, but said the full message would be kept private between her and the president.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran," Griner wrote. "It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
Griner, 31, also told Biden that her first-ever vote was for him in the 2020 presidential election.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home," she said. "I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore."
"I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates!" Griner said. "It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home."
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News that the White House was working "aggressively" to bring Griner home.
"We believe the Russian Federation is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner," Watson said. "President Biden has been clear about the need to see all US nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The US government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home."
Watson also said top officials were in regular contact with Griner's family and teammates.
But Griner's wife, Cherelle, told CBS on Tuesday morning it was "very disheartening" that she was yet to hear from Biden about the letter.
Cherelle said they were disappointed they had not been able to meet personally with Biden.
“It kills me every time … when I have to write her, and she’s asking, ‘Have you met with him yet?’ And I have to say, ‘No.’ … I’m sure she’s like, ‘I’m going to write him and ask now, because my family has tried and to no avail. So I’m going to do it myself,'" Cherelle said.
Russian authorities say Griner, a player with the Phoenix Mercury who had joined Russia's UMMC Ekaterinburg team for the off-season, was found with hashish oil in her luggage.
Griner's trial began last week at a court outside Moscow.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet that US diplomats attended the trial, noting that they were working to free her and Paul Whelan, a former Marine arrested at the end of 2018 and accused of being an American spy.
"We – and I personally – have no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans, including Paul Whelan, home," Blinken said. "We won’t stop working until they are reunited with their loved ones."
Supporters fear Griner's case is being exploited as a bargaining chip by Moscow amid the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Brittney Griner is being used as a political pawn by Russia, and this trial is only theater to give Russia some appearance of having a fair legal system," said Rep. Colin Allred, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has been advocating for Griner's family.
Last month, Allred helped pass a bipartisan resolution in the House of Representatives calling on Moscow to free Griner.
“I’m grateful for this overwhelming show of support from Congress," Cherelle Griner said. "We need to be doing all we can to keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and finally put an end to this nightmare."