Posted on December 14, 2022

Black Women Played a Critical Role in Helping to Free Brittney Griner

Char Adams, NBC News, December 13, 2022

The Black women-led groups that advocated for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s freedom are celebrating her release as a victory of their own.

As the two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury basketball star spent nearly 10 months in Russian custody, groups like Win With Black Women, the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium and the Black Women’s Leadership Collective held rallies, launched campaigns, circulated petitions and wrote to the Biden administration, demanding more be done to bring Griner home.

Black women played a critical role in securing Griner’s release, advocates say. And it seems their hard work paid off last week when Griner was released from Russian custody in a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Moscow.

“I was moved to tears,” LaTosha Brown, of the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium, said of the moment she learned of Griner’s release. {snip}

Russian authorities arrested Griner, who also played pro basketball in the country, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. She was accused of carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. {snip}

Brown said she sprang into action when she learned of Griner’s detainment not only because she regularly advocates for Black women, but also because many people in her life knew Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner. Brown connected with other advocates and groups to take action that would last long after Griner’s news left the headlines. {snip}

President Joe Biden announced Griner’s release Thursday. The administration agreed to release notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner. {snip}


{snip}Advocates say it was Black women who were the most vocal about Griner’s imprisonment and urged leaders not to forget about her. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, also a Black woman, was among her biggest advocates, organizing rallies and actions alongside other supporters.

“It was painful for so many, particularly Black women, to see another Black woman be in those harsh conditions, to just see the pain in her face,” Jotaka Eaddy, founder of Win With Black Women, told The Hill. {snip}

The various Black women-led groups also united to launch a massive campaign, We Are BG, which brought together activists, human rights groups, Griner’s legal team, WNBA officials and players, and many others to plan everything from demonstrations to creating “We Are BG” T-shirts.


Griner’s case has renewed conversations about the vulnerability of Black women in America, especially Black queer women. As a WNBA star, Griner was already enduring the gender pay gap. Her supporters believed that if they did not keep her name in headlines, Griner would likely fall victim to a phenomenon that PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill called “missing white woman syndrome,” in which mainstream media seems more focused on the missing and endangered cases of white women than those of people of color.