STANFORD, Calif. — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer wore long-sleeved shirts in honor of Brittney Griner as part of a series of efforts to support the imprisoned WNBA star during their teams’ No. 1 vs. No. 2 duel Sunday at the Maples Pavilion.
The coaches gathered before the game for a minute’s silence for Griner, who is jailed in Russia after being convicted of drug-related offenses in August. The Phoenix Mercury Center was arrested in Moscow in February and has been in detention for the 276th day since Sunday.
Stanford also set up a letter-writing station in Maples Hall on Sunday to send cards to Griner and collect hundreds of messages.
The back of the t-shirts, designed by the Playa Society and expected to go on sale later this month, includes a message to Griner that reads: “Dear BG: We love you and fight for you. Millions of us raise your name at every opportunity, and we won’t stop until you get home. We hope our love and support reaches you and ultimately sets you free.”
A portion of profits from the sale of the shirts will go to the Bring Our Families Home Campaign and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, both of which advocate for the rights of Americans incarcerated in other countries.
A video message in support of Griner was shown on the big screen just before launch, Stanford wore “BG” patches on their uniforms, and Staley wore a “Free BG” cap.
“Tara is leading this campaign on this particular campus, and we both know Brittney,” Staley said. “She was part of our basketball family and is fighting for her life. I know there are other Americans who are unjustly incarcerated and of course we want them all to come home, but when you have a relationship and a friendship with someone, it’s personal.
“It’s a personal fight for us to bring them home and every little bit counts. Every bit, every letter. … If it were someone’s loved one, loved ones, you would fight for them. I think there is a trailblazer out there that will pave the way for her, hopefully getting home a lot sooner than a lot of people expect. I’m someone who will be optimistic and prayerful thinking that she’s coming home soon.
South Carolina won Sunday’s game 76-71 in overtime.
Griner won gold medals as part of the USA’s Olympic women’s basketball team in 2016 and 2021, the latter when Staley coached the Americans. Staley played for VanDerveer when the Americans won the gold medal in 1996.
Before the game, VanDerveer spoke about some of her memories of Griner when she was at Baylor. The Griner’s Bears roster ended a 40-0 NCAA title season in 2011-12 by beating Stanford in the championship game.
“We want her to come home and we miss her,” VanDerveer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.