While athletes across the sporting world were honored for their achievements at the 2022 ESPY Awards, many used their time on stage to spotlight the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been held in a Russian prison since February.
Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and Griner's Phoenix Mercury teammate, guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, accepted the Sports Humanitarian League of the Year award on behalf of the WNBA, which was honored for their work fighting against injustice.
The two basketball stars were joined on stage by Golden State Warriors star and ESPYs host Stephen Curry to pay tribute to Griner and called on fans to use their voices to help bring her home.
“It’s been 153 nights now that [Griner] has been wrongfully detained thousands of miles away from home,” Diggins-Smith said. “Away from her family, away from her friends, away from her team. All throughout that time, we’ve kept her in our thoughts and in our hearts, even though we know that ain’t enough to bring her home, y’all.”
Curry, who donned Griner's Mercury jersey for the monologue, noted that while there are many people working to secure Griner's release, he urged the sports world "to continue to stay energized on her behalf."
“We cannot stop fighting for her, we cannot stop believing for her and we will not stop hoping for the day when we can welcome her home safely,” Curry said.
Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, was in the audience at the Dolby Theater.
Griner was arrested in Russia on Feb. 17 after customs officials said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of transporting drugs.
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, who won the ESPY for Best Play for her corner kick goal, also used her platform to address Griner's detention during her acceptance speech.
"BG deserves to be free, she’s being held as a political prisoner, obviously,” Rapinoe said while accepting a trophy.
Rapinoe also admonished her fellow athletes for not speaking out enough and encouraged them to show more support by keeping her name in the public sphere through interviews and on social media.
“Like what are we doing here dressed up like we are when our sister is detained abroad?" Rapinow said. "We haven’t done enough, none of us. We can do more, we can support her more, and just let her know that we love her so much."
Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to possessing the canisters but said she had no criminal intent and explained they were in her luggage because she packed hastily in her return to Russia to play for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team during the WNBA's offseason.
At a hearing on July 15, Griner’s lawyers presented documents in court that included a doctor’s letter that recommended she take medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.
Her next court appearance is slated for Tuesday, July 26.
More Brittney Griner Coverage:
A timeline of Griner's situation in Russia, along with steps President Joe Biden has taken in the aftermath