When Ben Proudfoot won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for directing The Queen of Basketball — a documentary about Lusia “Lucy” Harris’ accomplishments in the sport — he gave a shout out to current WNBA player Brittney Griner.
“If there is anyone out there that still doubts whether there is an audience for female athletes, let this academy award be the answer. Lucy Harris is not here tonight because she passed away before this film was nominated. But her family is here tonight so I’d ask you to please give your recognition to them,” Proudfoot said of Harris, who was the first and only woman to be drafted into the NBA in 1977, during his acceptance speech. “And one last thing: President Biden, bring Brittney Griner home. Thank you. Long live the queen.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and player for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested on allegations of smuggling narcotics at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17, according to Russian authorities and CNN. An official from the U.S. embassy in Moscow told CNN that Griner — an openly queer Black woman, which are two identities marginalized in Russia — is currently “in good condition.” She faces up to a decade in prison in Russia.
There’s no current conditional terms to her release by the Russian government, meaning she is not currently publicly being considered a hostage. Griner’s agent and the WNBA said they support her and are prioritizing her “swift and safe return to the United States.” Russia’s war in Ukraine only further complicates the issue.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point. Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia.”
We’ll see if Proudfoot’s pressure at the Oscars has any impact on bringing Griner back.