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Brittney Griner: LeBron James criticises US handling of Griner situation on his TV show

NBA legend LeBron James made the comments in a trailer for an upcoming episode 'The Shop: Uninterrupted', his TV show in the US; Griner was imprisoned in Russia back in February and pleaded guilty to drug charges last week

LeBron James sits on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors
Image: LeBron James sits on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors

LeBron James is publicly criticising the United States' handling of WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner's case in a trailer for an upcoming episode of his television show.

Griner is on trial in Russia for drug possession. She pleaded guilty last week and will appear again in court on Thursday.

"Now, how can she feel like America has her back?" James said in the trailer for 'The Shop: Uninterrupted'. "I would be feeling like, 'Do I even wanna go back to America?'"

James tweeted on Tuesday night that his comments in the trailer weren't intended to be critical of the US efforts to get Griner back.

LeBron James sits on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors
Image: LeBron James sits on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors

"My comments on 'The Shop' regarding Brittney Griner wasn't knocking our beautiful country," he said. "I was simply saying how she's probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she's been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome."

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing
Image: WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing

It's unclear when the show was filmed, although in the trailer it is mentioned that Griner had been in Russia for more than 110 days, which would have been nearly five weeks ago as she was detained on February 17. The 31-year-old was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport while travelling to play for a Russian team. Police said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil.

During the weeks since day 110, in addition to the trial beginning and the guilty plea, Griner's wife Cherelle has had a phone conversation with President Joe Biden. Biden also received a handwritten letter from Griner on July 4 and sent a letter back to her, which she was given in court last week.

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There is also no mention of other detained Americans in the trailer.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 02: Fans hold a sign for Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky on July 2, 2022, at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Image: Fans hold signs for Griner during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, speaking later Tuesday after his league's board of governors meeting in Las Vegas, reiterated that the NBA and WNBA are "doing everything in our power" to bring Griner home.

"I'm accepting that the administration is doing everything they can right now," Silver said. "There are some seriously complex geopolitical issues here. And I'm sure as invariably as they are more focused on Brittney, there are other families who are of course concerned about their loved ones who are being held against their will in Russia right now. ... There are very difficult issues that the Biden administration has to face in terms of what's appropriate."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals
Image: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference

Washington hasn't disclosed its strategy in the case and the US may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity over its actions in Ukraine. The State Department's designation of Griner being wrongfully detained moves her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government's chief hostage negotiator.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 02: Fans hold a sign for Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky on July 2, 2022, at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Image: Fans hold signs for Griner during a WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington will continue to work for the release of Griner, as well as other Americans held by Moscow, including former Marine Paul Whelan.

"We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones," he tweeted last week.

Brittney Griner (AP)
Image: Griner has been detained in Russia since February

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had been in contact with the National Security Council, but wouldn't comment on "his travel or what he intends to do" amid reports that Richardson plans to travel to Russia and work on Griner's release.

James' show will air in the United States on Friday.

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