STORY: Hammon: "The time that she served over there, enough's enough.”
In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Becky Hammon, current head coach for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, and a six-time league all-star player who once represented Russia at the Olympics has made a plea for Russian President Vladimir Putin to "do the right thing" and quickly release American star player Brittney Griner.
Hammon: “...you know, so many players have gone over to Russia, including myself. Russia's been very good to us as athletes. So to see, you know, Britney being detained, like I said, it's upsetting…I just ask the Russian government to do the right thing. It's never too late to do the right thing. And I think at this point, like I said, whether she did or didn't, it's time to send her home."
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and center for WNBA team Phoenix Mercury, was detained in Moscow when agents found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage on Feb. 17.
Her arrest came days before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, thrusting Griner into the center of a geopolitical tussle.
Hammon played during the off-season for several Russian teams, a common move for WNBA players seeking to supplement incomes that are lower than their male counterparts'.
Hammon: "It's hard to imagine, though, that if this was, you know, LeBron James, that he'd still be sitting over there in a jail cell. Maybe he could be. Maybe not. I don't know. But it's hard not to let your mind go there."
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States made a "substantial offer" to Russia to release Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, whom the United States also considers to be wrongfully detained in Russia.
A source said that Washington was willing to exchange convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death.”
Moscow has said no deal has yet been done.
Griner - who pled guilty to all charges- is expected to return to a Russian court on Thursday for closing arguments in her trial. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Hammon: "There's worry anyways when people are overseas, you know, when you're separated from your family. Now you add in everything that's going on politically. You factor in the war that's going on. It just heightens all the anxieties and all the fears."