Oscar-winning director Ben Proudfoot made a plea to Biden during his time at the podium while accepting his award to “bring back Brittney Griner.” Proudfoot won his Oscar Sunday night for his documentary short “The Queen of Basketball.” The documentary is about basketball pioneer Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart.
From what I understand, the Oscars this year were remarkably non-political. Funny how that happens when a Democrat is in the White House, right? The opening of the show was dreadfully woke and very unfunny. For the first time since 2015 I didn’t cover the awards show season’s big show. There were references to Ukraine and some celebrities wore a blue ribbon to show support for refugees. It’s a standard empty token gesture that makes them feel better but does little, like wearing the ribbons in recognition of HIV-AIDS. Do they follow up their ribbon-wearing with financial donations or volunteer hours?
Given the subject of his documentary, it is not surprising that Proudfoot took the opportunity to poke Biden about the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia. She has been held since February 17.
“President Biden. Bring back Brittney Griner,” Proudfoot said, referencing the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who was arrested one week before the Ukraine war began at a Moscow airport for allegedly smuggling an illegal substance. A canine unit reportedly discovered vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. A video of the incident has circulated online.
A former Pentagon official told Yahoo Sports earlier this month that Griner, a Phoenix Mercury player who competes in Russia during the WNBA’s off-season, could be used as a “high-profile hostage” as tensions mount between President Biden and Russian President Putin over the escalating Ukrainian war.
Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie spoke about Brittney’s detention in Russia on the I Am Athlete podcast, saying that they were told to not make a fuss.
“We were told was to not make a big fuss about it so that they could not use her as a pawn, so to speak, in this situation in the war,” Leslie said in the clip.
“So, to make it like it’s not that important or don’t make it where we’re like, ‘Free Brittney’ and we start this campaign, and then it becomes something that they can use,” she said. “I won’t say who said that, but that’s what’s been spreading through the women’s basketball world. Is that the right thing to do or not? It’s heartbreaking. You want to do more. Should we all use or social media platform and get behind it or not?”
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on CNN last week that an official from the U.S. embassy in Moscow was allowed to see Griner and found her to be in good condition. Price said the State Department will continue to do all it can to make sure she is treated properly while she is held. A Russian court announced Brittney will be detained until May 19. It isn’t clear if or how she will be released then.
There was a moment of silence in support of Ukrainians during the ceremony.
“We’d like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their borders,” read an on-screen message to the worldwide audience. “While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services. Resources are scarce and we — collectively as a global community — can do more.”