South Carolina, Stanford coaches use matchup to support Brittney Griner

STANFORD, Calif. — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Stanford coach Tara VanderVere wear long-sleeve shirts honoring Britney Griner, who supported the detention while the team was No. 1 Part of a series of efforts by the WNBA star. 1 yes no. 2 matches at Maples Pavilion on Sunday.

Coaches gathered on the field before the game to observe a moment of silence for Griner, who was imprisoned in Russia after his conviction on drug charges in August. The Phoenix Mercury Center was arrested in Moscow in February, and as of Sunday, she was serving her 276th day in prison.

Stanford also set up a letter-writing station in Maples Square on Sunday, sending cards to Griner, gathering hundreds of messages.

“I went up and wrote a letter,” she said, wearing a hat that read “Free BG” after her gamecock team won 76-71 in overtime. “Tara is leading the movement on this particular campus and we all know Britney. She is part of our basketball family and she is fighting for her life. I know there are other Americans who have been wrongfully detained , obviously we want them all to come home, but when you have a relationship and a friendship with someone, it’s personal.

“Bringing her home was a personal struggle for us and every bit counted. Every bit, every letter. … If it was anyone’s loved ones, loved ones, you would fight for them …I do think there is a passerby out there that will open the way for her to hopefully get home sooner than a lot of people expect. I would be optimistic and religious that she will be home soon.”

The T-shirt, designed by the Playa Society and expected to go on sale later this month, features a message to the Griner on the back that reads: “Dear BG: We love you and we’re fighting for you. Hundreds of To all of us we will raise your name every chance we get and we won’t stop until you come home. We hope our love and support will reach you and finally set you free.”

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

Shortly before kickoff, a video message in support of Griner was played on the big screen, and “BG” patches were plastered on Stanford uniforms.

Greiner won gold in 2016 and 2021 as part of the U.S. women’s Olympic women’s basketball team, the latter when Staley coached the U.S. team. Staley played for Van der Veer when the Americans won the 1996 gold medal.

Vanderbilt talked about some of her memories of Griner at Baylor before the game. Griner’s Bears finished the 2011-12 season with a 40-0 NCAA Championship season with a victory over Stanford in the title game.

After the game, van der Veer mentioned Greener immediately at the press conference.

“Brittney Griner has been imprisoned in Russia for 276 days,” VanDerveer said. “Hopefully we’ve brought some attention to that. We’ve said something every game and had a moment of silence for her. We need to bring her home.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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