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Brittney Griner’s WNBA Coach: ‘If It Was LeBron, He’d Be Home, Right?’

As Mercury center Brittney Griner’s trial in Russia is now underway, many in the U.S. have grown frustrated that the star player’s detainment has continued for so long. On Tuesday, Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard posited the question: What if someone like LeBron James was in Griner’s place?

"If it was LeBron, he'd be home, right?" Nygaard said, according to Casey L. Moor of USA TODAY. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”

Griner has been held in Russian custody for over four months after customs officials claim to have found hashish oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow.

On Monday, parts of a letter Griner sent to president Joe Biden were shared by ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, in which Griner appealed to Biden for his assistance in securing her release.

“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.

Nygaard has spoken out about the handling of Griner’s case before. She previously compared the attention surrounding Griner’s case with that of the disappearance and killing of Gabby Petito, who went missing while hiking in Wyoming and was later found to have been killed by her boyfriend.

“That white woman that was hiking, and we did everything to find her,” Nygaard said, per Sameer Malla of Cronkite News. “She was from Florida, and she went on a hike and her boyfriend killed her. How much attention went to that? BG hasn’t got half that attention. And that’s a crime. And that’s a statement about our society and who we value and we need to change that.”

A Russian court ordered Griner to remain in custody for the duration of her trial, and her detention was extended to Dec. 20, the Associated Press reported. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas of Wasserman, tweeted after the extension, “The fact remains that the U.S. Government has determined that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained and being used as a political pawn.”

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