Help often comes from the most unexpected places.
For Brittney Griner, detained in Russia since February on charges of possessing and transporting cannabis, help could reasonably be expected to come from high level international diplomats.
In fact, Griner’s wife has appealed directly to the White House for help.
However the latest effort is being made not by a statesman or politician, but by a prominent former athlete.
In an unusual turn of events, boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. has apparently offered his services in attempting to secure her release.
A new report from Fox News details Jones’s motivations:
“First, she’s an athlete. I have ties with Russia because of my athleticism and my athletic career,” Jones told Fox News Digital. “It’s nothing political. It’s all about sports.”
He also explained that when his career was at its peak, Russia had only a few widely available television stations, one of which mostly covered boxing.
As a result, Jones was asked to train young boxers and as a dual citizen of the US and Russia, even opened a gym in Moscow. The invasion of Ukraine forced him to close his business, but he realized he might be able to use his connections to help out during what must be a terrifying ordeal:
“So, I thought about it for a little while and one night I was sleeping and it hit me – what if it was my daughter stuck in a foreign country?” Jones continued. “They don’t speak no English and she don’t speak the language that they speak. It’s bad enough being incarcerated but what if you incarcerated in a foreign land where they don’t speak your language? You know how bad that is? So, that thought alone terrified me.”
Amazingly, his efforts appeared at first to have paid off, as the Fox report explains that his Russian contacts were apparently willing to engage in discussions of a prisoner swap.
US officials didn’t comment on the likelihood of that occurring, but for Jones, the chance to contribute was impossible to pass up:
“I would feel bad sitting there comfortable at night knowing she’s in that country in prison and I have citizenship in that country and I’m not trying to do nothing to help. That would be bad on my part.”
It remains to be seen whether Jones will be able to bridge the divide between Russian and U.S. authorities, but it would be a remarkable achievement if an athlete with no diplomatic experience is able to succeed in bringing Griner back home.