COLUMBIA — At South Carolina women's basketball's first official practice of the 2022-23 season on Wednesday, coach Dawn Staley wore a bright orange pin on her sweatshirt that read "WE ARE BG" in support of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Staley posts the same pin to her Twitter and Instagram accounts every day with a caption that lists the number of the days Griner has been detained in Russian prison. Griner was arrested in February after hashish oil, a cannabis product, was found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
"I've known Brittney for the past 10 years. I know her heart, I know who she is as a person," Staley said. "She's a human being. She's an American over in Russia at the worst time that anybody could be in Russia. Why wouldn't I want to send prayers her way and make sure she's in a good headspace? ... I just want her to continue to have hope that people are voicing their thoughts and prayers on her behalf."
KIM MULKEY DECLINES COMMENT:LSU's Kim Mulkey declines to comment on Brittney Griner, who played for her at Baylor
Staley coached Griner several times with USA Basketball. Griner was on the U.S. women’s basketball team during 2016 Olympics when Staley was an assistant coach, and she played for 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup and the 2020 Olympic teams after Staley was named coach.
"If you have a voice, you should use it for the voiceless," Staley said. "I don't condemn anybody, I don't try to hurt anybody. I use it in order to benefit other people. I'll continue to do that ... and I'm becoming more mom-like. If people don't like it, I can't help that."
In contrast, LSU coach Kim Mulkey declined to comment on Griner's detainment and indicated that she had no plans to offer comment in the future when asked about her former player Monday. Griner played for four years under Mulkey at Baylor and led the Bears to an undefeated season and a national championship in 2012.
#FreeBrittneyGriner 223 days my sister and friend @brittneygriner has been wrongfully detained in a Russian prison. As thing escalate in there praying God will intervene and bring her home soon! Love you BG! #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/qcTspHcuD0
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) September 28, 2022
The two have been estranged since Griner left Baylor, which the Phoenix Mercury standout has publicly attributed to Mulkey's disapproval of Griner's sexuality. In a 2013 ESPN profile, Griner said she came out to her former coach during the recruiting process and was told it wouldn't be a problem, but that Mulkey pressured her to hide that she was gay during her time at Baylor.
Several former Baylor players spoke out against Mulkey's refusal to comment, including Queen Egbo, who was drafted 10th overall in the 2022 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever.
"A player that built Baylor, 2 (Final Fours), & a 40-0 record. Yet her former coach refuses to say anything or simply just show any kind of support. Keep that in mind when you’re choosing schools," Egbo wrote on Twitter.
South Carolina senior Zia Cooke also took to Twitter after Mulkey's statement to praise Staley for supporting for her athletes beyond their basketball careers.
"Go where your (sic) loved and cared for as a person, not just a player literally has Dawn Staley written all over it," Cooke wrote. "Tell people all the time, coming here you are going to grow more than just on the court, she takes pride in growing her players as a person. Best trait about UofSC."
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Dawn Staley offers support for Brittney Griner after Kim Mulkey declines