Raptors’ Boucher wants to shine spotlight on more important issues, like the Brittney Griner case
LOS ANGELES—Chris Boucher needed to say something because so few others are.
He had learned — long after the fact, just like so many people — that American basketball star Brittney Griner was in a Russian jail, and the Raptors forward was shocked with the lack of an outcry about it.
He had the chance last weekend and he took it because it was important to him, to shine at least a little bit more light on the issue, because in the insular world of pro sports it wasn’t being publicized enough.
“We’re already talking about the stuff that’s happening with Kyrie (Irving) not being able to play in New York and stuff like that — and that is also stupid — but it seems like we’re talking about that more than someone that’s in jail right now,” the Raptors forward said here this week.
“They said she could be in jail for 10 years. I just felt I had to say something about it.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and one of the top players on Earth, has been held in Russia for almost a month after officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage when she was trying to leave the country following its invasion of Ukraine.
According to a CNN report on Wednesday, the 31-year-old Texan is being held “without official government access to her” in an undisclosed Russian facility.
“For Brittney’s sake, we don’t want her to become a part of this kind of political battle that’s going on, and we want to make sure that her rights are respected and that we are able to get access to her, and that she can get through the process and get home as quickly as possible,” Texas congressman Colin Allred told the network, adding the detention is “unusual and extremely concerning.”
For Boucher, the chance to make more people aware of Griner’s situation came Saturday in Denver, after he had one of his best games of the season in a Raptors victory.
Taking part in a post-game, walk-off interview with TSN reporter Kayla Grey, Boucher brought it up unprompted.
“I was surprised that I didn’t hear about it sooner. Apparently she’s been there a month or so already, and nobody is talking about it,” the Montreal native said.
“I just wanted to use (the interview) … I had a good game and obviously people are going through worse times, so I just felt like it was my job to say something about it, just so that people know that she’s still detained over there.”
Griner’s detention came to light in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation and the homeland of Raptors forward Svi Mykhailiuk.
“I’ve been watching a lot on what’s going on in Russia, obviously with Svi and Ukraine,” Boucher said. “It just makes me want to know a little bit better, since it’s one of my teammates. You never know what they’re dealing with.”
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia are “non-existent” now, a California member of the American House Armed Services Committee told CNN this week, casting another pall over Griner’s detention and questions about how it will be resolved.
“People say ‘stay busy.’ Yet there’s not a task in this world that could keep any of us from worrying about you. My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by,” Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said in a social media post this week. “There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting.”
And Boucher just wanted to make sure more people knew.
“I want people to know that’s why I brought it up.”