South Carolina coaches Stanford use Matchup to endorse Brittney Griner

STANFORD, Calif. — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer wore long-sleeved shirts in honor Brittney Griner as part of a series of efforts to support the jailed WNBA star during Sunday’s #1 vs. #2 matchup of their teams at the Maples Pavilion.

The coaches gathered before the game for a minute’s silence for Griner, who is jailed in Russia after being convicted of drug-related offenses in August. That Phoenix Mercury Zentrum was arrested in Moscow in February and has been in detention for the 276th day since Sunday. The US State Department has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”

Stanford also set up a letter-writing station in Maples Hall on Sunday to send cards to Griner and collect hundreds of messages.

“I went up and wrote a letter,” said Staley, who wore a Free BG cap after her Gamecocks won 76-71 in overtime. “Tara is leading this campaign on this particular campus, and we both know Brittney. She was part of our basketball family and she’s fighting for her life. I know there are other Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned and obviously we all want them to get home, but when you have a relationship and a friendship with someone, it’s personal.

β€œIt’s a personal fight for us to bring them home and every little bit counts. Every bit, every letter. … If it were someone’s loved one, loved ones, you would fight for them. I think there is a trailblazer out there that will pave the way for her, hopefully getting home a lot sooner than a lot of people expect. I’m someone who will be optimistic and prayerful thinking that she’s coming home soon.

The back of the t-shirts, designed by the Playa Society and expected to go on sale later this month, includes a message to Griner that reads: “Dear BG: We love you and fight for you. Millions of us raise your name at every opportunity, and we won’t stop until you get home. We hope our love and support reaches you and ultimately sets you free.”

A portion of profits from the sale of the shirts will go to the Bring Our Families Home Campaign and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, both of which advocate for the rights of Americans incarcerated in other countries.

The minute’s silence in support of Griner has been common at Stanford’s home games so far this season, and players have also worn “BG” patches on their uniforms. Just before the tip, a video message in support of Griner was shown on the big screen.

Griner won gold medals as part of the USA’s Olympic women’s basketball team in 2016 and 2021, the latter when Staley coached the Americans. Staley played for VanDerveer when the Americans won the gold medal in 1996.

Before the game, VanDerveer spoke about some of her memories of Griner when she was at Baylor. The Griner’s Bears roster ended a 40-0 NCAA title season in 2011-12 by beating Stanford in the championship game.

After the game, VanDerveer immediately brought up Griner in her press conference.

“It’s been 276 days since Brittney Griner was jailed in Russia,” VanDerveer said. “Hopefully we’ve drawn a little attention to it. We said something in every game and took a moment of silence for them. We have to get her home.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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