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Brittney Griner Exposes Putin’s Exploitation Of America’s Racial Tensions In New Memoir

Putin "was well aware of America’s long history of racial tensions, and he knew how to use that to his benefit,” Brittney Griner wrote in her memoir.

WNBA superstar Britney Griner’s memoir, Coming Home, co-written by New York Times bestselling author Michelle Buford, debuted at number one on Amazon’s best-seller list and has received sparkling reviews for its honesty and intimacy. 

At one point in the memoir, Griner questioned how far the Black Lives Matter movement went in relation to Black queer people, as she wrote that she believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin used her detainment and incarceration as a bargaining chip.

“Black lives matter. We hear that in the streets, but what is a Black life really worth? Judging by our history, it seems not much, and even less if you’re gay. For Putin, my worth was as a pawn. My arrest gave him leverage in his clash with the West. He was well aware of America’s long history of racial tensions, and he knew how to use that to his benefit,” she wrote.

Griner detailed her disappointment at believing that she had brought shame and disgrace to the family name once the news of her arrest was reported. “I cried because I’d let down my father. The Griner name was now stained around the globe: dopehead, drug dealer, dumb. I hurt because I knew I’d handed the world a weapon. When you’re Black, your behavior is never just about you. It’s about your entire community.” 

Griner also described bouts of depression and her disgust at the conditions of the shower in the Russian prison where she was initially detained.

“It was nasty, exposed pipes on every wall,” she wrote. “Long hair strands all over the tile floor and gathered in the drains. A bloody tampon was tucked between two pipes. As much as I was disgusted by the scene, I was just as repulsed by my stench. I undressed and found the cleanest part of the floor. I turned the faucet on, and rusty brown water came spouting out. I closed my eyes tight, trying to forget where I was. I thought of Relle [her wife Cherelle] and home and all I had left behind. Down the water slid from my dreads onto the floor splashing away the hell I endured. I stayed in there a good 30 minutes until I banged on the door for the guard to let me out. That was the nastiest shower I’d ever taken. It was also the best.”

Once Griner was transferred to another, more notorious Russian penal colony, her depression deepened and she cut off her hair off. “I had been frozen, sick, got my hair chopped off,” she wrote. “The girl I was lay on a heap of dreads on a concrete floor. … At a labor camp in Russia in the dead of winter, I learned how tough I was.”

Griner also revealed that the letters from family and friends kept her going as she waited. She was released in December 2022, exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death.”

Griner has resumed playing in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury, which drafted her first overall in 2013. Griner is also currently seeing a therapist, and has been an outspoken advocate for the United States securing the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on suspicion of espionage.

The United States has denied the charges. However, Griner wrote, that she “will not rest until Paul Whelan is released.”

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