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Celtics ramp up pressure on White House to bring Brittney Griner home from Russia

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Boston Celtics players delivered a message to the White House on Saturday during their NBA Finals practice.

Bring Brittney Griner home.

Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and other Celtics players wore T-shirts at practice reading "We are BG" and imprinted with a QR code on the back linking to a petition calling for Griner's safe return.

Griner — a seven-time All-Star for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury — has been detained in Russia on drug charges since Feb. 17 after she allegedly carried vape cartridges containing hashish oil through a Moscow airport security checkpoint. Smart, Brown and Jayson Tatum all spoke about Griner during their media availability.

"It's extremely tough seeing what she's going through," Tatum said. "Everybody sees and feels that. Obviously we're all together and support trying to bring her back to her family."

"We feel like it was a good idea to use our availability and our platforms to bring attention to certain matters," Brown added. "I always stand for that. Being an athlete, we're not just here to entertain you guys. We also have a voice. ... Today was a good day to bring attention to a topic that was necessary."

Smart simply stated: "Free BG, man. We're here. We're here for her. We stand with her."

The petition linked to the QR code is titled: "Secure Brittney Griner's Swift and Safe Return to the U​.​S." It calls for President Joe Biden by name to take action to bring Griner home.

"White House and Biden Administration, we ask that you take action today – doing whatever is necessary – to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely," the petition reads.

It also blames "pay inequity" for Griner's detention. Griner was in Russia during the WNBA's offseason to play for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg. She reportedly makes substantially more money playing in Russia than in the WNBA.

With Russia engaged in its ongoing war against Ukraine and its people, negotiating Griner's return is far from a simple matter. Russia has reportedly demanded that the U.S. deliver convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout aka the "Merchant of Death" in exchange for Griner. Bout has been detained in the U.S. since a 2008 international sting operation and 2012 conviction on four charges including conspiracy to kill Americans.

As calls for Brittney Griner's return amplify, negotiating her release from Russian detainment remains perilous. (AP /Ross D. Franklin)
As calls for Brittney Griner's return amplify, negotiating her release from Russian detainment remains perilous. (AP /Ross D. Franklin)
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