Paige Bueckers, the reigning AP & Naismith College Player of the Year for the UConn Huskies, appeared on ESPN Tuesday to discuss her NIL deals and how she’s trying to use them to give back to the community.
But as host Malika Andrews was closing the interview, Bueckers jumped in and asked if she could say something, using the opportunity to deliver an impassioned plea.
"A message to President Biden, the government and anybody with high enough power to help get Brittney Griner back home: I believe it’s way far due for her to come home," Bueckers said. "She’s an American, she’s a hero and she’s our sister … whatever it takes to get her home, I think it’s definitely time."
Griner was arrested in February for allegedly bringing vape cartridges that contained cannabis through a Moscow airport. She has been in Russian custody since, despite implorations from many for the U.S. government to intervene and bring her back to America.
Griner appeared in court on Friday, the day her trial began. She faces up to ten years in prison and did not enter a plea after accepting the charges. The trial will resume Thursday and is expected to last up to two months, according to her lawyers.
Griner sent a letter to President Biden on Monday that called for him to use his power to grant her freedom. As of now, the Biden administration has not replied to the letter.
Bueckers is the latest to offer support for the eight-time WNBA All-Star, and one of the most influential. In April, she surpassed one million followers on Instagram. She has been able to leverage that influence in a way that college athletes previously weren’t able: to make money.
Bueckers has NIL deals with several major brands, including Gatorade, Crocs and Cash App. It was estimated that during March Madness, the Huskies’ star was earning around $63K per social media post, making her the most profitable college basketball player in the nation.
The highest-earning male basketball player at that time was Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (who had an impressive Summer League debut for OKC), but his earning potential of $10,400 per post paled in comparison to Bueckers.