Brittney Griner wins WNBA community assists award following Mercury star’s efforts advocating for Americans wrongfully detained overseas after her release from a Russian penal colony

  • Griner hosts an annual shoe drive which brought in 3,000 pairs this past season
  • In 2023, Griner started a partnership with ‘Bring Our Families Home’ 
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Phoenix Mercury Center Brittney Griner was given the season-long WNBA Cares Community Assist Award on Friday. 

On top the BG Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, Griner, 33, was recognized for her dedication to helping wrongfully detained Americans get home to their families and supporting marginalized communities in Phoenix.

Griner’s shoe drive began locally in 2016. In 2022, Griner partnered with the Phoenix Rescue Foundation while other players and teams around the WNBA joined the initiative– expanding the program beyond Arizona. The Heart and Sole Shoe Drive brought in almost 3,000 pairs this past season. 

Over the course of the season, the nine-time All-Star also hosted families of Americans who were wrongfully detained overseas. Following Griner’s partnership with Bring Our Families Home, the Mercury set up letter-writing stations at their home games. 

Fans were able to write letters to detained family members and elected officials. The campaign was later picked up by WNBA other teams who set up writing stations when they hosted the Mercury. 

Griner is the second consecutive Phoenix Mercury player to win the Community Assist Award 

Griner returned to Phoenix after being detained in Russia from February-December 2022

Griner returned to Phoenix after being detained in Russia from February-December 2022

Griner herself was detained in Russia from February to December 2022 for a drug smuggling charge. Customs in a Moscow airport found Griner in possession of vaporizer cartridges containing less than a gram of hash oil. Griner was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States, which is illegal in Russia. 

With the help of Bring Our Families Home, Griner was released in a 1-for-1 prisoner swap in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

‘I’m grateful to receive this recognition from the WNBA but even more grateful to the X-Factor fans, fans all around the league, and our Phoenix Mercury organization for working together this year to make a difference through my Heart and Sole Shoe Drive and Bring Our Families Home,’ Griner said in a statement. 

Griner is the second consecutive Mercury player to receive the award, following Brianna Turner last season. Griner also won the monthly WNBA Cares Community Assist Award in June. 

‘I know the opportunity, privilege and responsibility I have to make a difference in the lives of others, and I’ll always remain committed to that.’