Oscar-Winning Director of ‘Queen of Basketball’ to President Biden: ‘Bring Back Brittney Griner’

The WNBA star has been in Russian custody since Feb. 17

Brittney Griner
SAITAMA, JAPAN – AUGUST 06: Brittney Griner #15 of Team United States looks on against Serbia during the second half of a Women's Basketball Semifinals game on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on August 06, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Ben Proudfoot, director of the Oscar-winning documentary short “The Queen of Basketball,” about basketball pioneer Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart, used his time at the podium Sunday to address the plight of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who’s been detained in Russia for weeks.

“President Biden. Bring back Brittney Griner,” Proudfoot said, referencing the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who was arrested one week before the Ukraine war began at a Moscow airport for allegedly smuggling an illegal substance. A canine unit reportedly discovered vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. A video of the incident has circulated online.

A former Pentagon official told Yahoo Sports earlier this month that Griner, a Phoenix Mercury player who competes in Russia during the WNBA’s off-season, could be used as a “high-profile hostage” as tensions mount between President Biden and Russian President Putin over the escalating Ukrainian war.

Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie told the “I am Athlete” podcast she’d been advised not to make a “big fuss” over Griner’s arrest in a clip released on Friday.

“We were told was to not make a big fuss about it so that they could not use her as a pawn, so to speak, in this situation in the war,” Leslie said in the clip. 

“So, to make it like it’s not that important or don’t make it where we’re like, ‘Free Brittney’ and we start this campaign, and then it becomes something that they can use,” she said. “I won’t say who said that, but that’s what’s been spreading through the women’s basketball world. Is that the right thing to do or not? It’s heartbreaking. You want to do more. Should we all use or social media platform and get behind it or not?” The full episode will be out on Monday, March. 28.

An official from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who was allowed access to Griner, found her to be in “good condition,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN Wednesday. “Our official found Brittney Griner to be in good condition, and we will continue to do everything we can to see to it that she is  treated fairly throughout this ordeal.”

Griner is being detained until May 19, a Russian court announced, although it’s not clear when or how she will be released.