A standing ovation greeted the WNBA’s Brittney Griner over the weekend when the basketball star and her wife, Cherelle, stunned the audience by walking out onto the stage at the NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, Calif.
As Deadline reported, Queen Latifah was speaking about the resilience of Black people Saturday night, when she said, “We stay overcoming because that’s what we do!” Then, she introduced the Griners: “As we gather here tonight, In the spirit of overcoming adversity, I want to take this moment to recognize someone who has done just that.”
The crowd roared as they appeared on stage with broad smiles, holding hands. Brittney wore an elegant black tuxedo and unbuttoned button-down white shirt, with Cherelle decked out in a regal purple pantsuit.
“It feels so good to be here,” said Griner, “especially with my beautiful, amazing wife and with all of y’all here today.”
— NAACP (@NAACP) February 26, 2023
“Thank you for that beautiful applause,” Cherelle Griner said. “We are just truly so thankful to all the people, many of whom are Black women and Black-led organizations who fought so hard to bring BG home tonight.”
The Phoenix Mercury player, who just re-signed with the team this month, regained her freedom in December 2022 in a prisoner swap between Russia and the U.S.
The 32-year-old missed the entire 2022 season following her arrest in Moscow one year ago. Russian authorities said she broke their law by packing vape canisters with cabbabis oil in her luggage. In August, Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for drug smuggling, and that sentence was upheld upon appeal in October.
Griner was finally exchanged in the United Arab Emirates for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. He had served 10 years of a 25-year-sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist group. Russia balked at the Biden administration’s request to secure the release of businessman and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is still serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for spying.
“Let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas,” Griner told the audience at the award ceremony.
As NPR reported, almost three dozen Americans are wrongfully detained by foreign governments each year, a rate nearly seven times greater than the average compared to just ten years ago, according to a study by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. That group advocates for the release of Americans who are held hostage or wrongfully detained.
According to the foundation, right now there are at least 60 Americans who are currently being held hostage or wrongfully detained in foreign countries. Iran, China, Venezuela, Syria and Russia are holding the vast majority of those Americans prisoner.
Griner and the Phoenix Mercury open their 2023 season against the Los Angeles Sparks at the Crypto.com Arena on May 19. The team’s first home game is May 21 when Phoenix hosts the Chicago Sky.