Brittney Griner recounts time in Russian prison in new interview, reveals she contemplated suicide

GrinerBrittney 101021 AP Ralph Freso

Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was previously detained in Russia, recounted her experience in custody in a Thursday interview, revealing that she contemplated suicide while detained.

Griner, who is set to release her memoir “Coming Home” next week, spoke with The New York Times about her 10 month stay in a Russian prison and what it’s been like since her release.

“I will never forget any of it,” Griner said, placing emphasis on each word, the Times’ K Wortham reported.

The Phoenix Mercury star was entering Russia in February 2022 to play during the WNBA’s off-season when she was detained by Russian authorities. After her bags were searched at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimiki, guards discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.

She pleaded guilty to drug charges in July 2022 and said the cartridges were packed in her bag unintentionally. She said she had no intention of breaking Russian law but was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.

The U.S. declared she was “wrongfully detained” and her imprisonment sparked international attention. After nearly 10 months in prison, she was released on Dec. 8, 2022 as a result of a prisoner swap.

In the interview, Griner detailed life inside Russia. When she arrived at a local detention center, she was only able to keep some clothes and her Sudoku book. She ripped T-shirts into several pieces, to clean her teeth, her body and for toilet paper.

“I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Griner said, while recounting the neglect and degradation and poor treatment that she said led her to have suicidal thoughts. “I felt horrible.”

Griner would lie awake at night, anxious and thinking of her family and the stereotypes of Black people as drug abusers, the Times reported.

While there, she became close with her bunkmate, who was fluent in English and would help her order food and water and warned her of illness in the prison. To her surprise, Griner picked up two habits while in prison. She smoked cigarettes, up to a pack a day, to relieve her stress. She also found solace when reading the Bible.

After her release, she was met with mixed reactions. She said she received hate “about how unpatriotic” she was and that she was “un-American and shouldn’t be alive.”

Griner said she felt uneasy about playing basketball again, in a season plagued by injuries which resulted in her stepping away temporarily.

“People say its OK to not be OK,” she said in the interview. “But what the hell does that mean? Just cry when I want to cry? Or be angry when I want to be angry? Or does that mean talking about it? Like, I had to figure that out.”

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