NBA superstar LeBron James is backtracking after suggesting that WNBA player Brittney Griner should question whether she actually wants to return to the United States.
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17. Russian officials arrested her after they allegedly discovered hash oil in vape pens that she was carrying in luggage at a Moscow-area airport. At a trial last week, Griner pleaded guilty to the charges against her. She faces 10 years in Russian prison.
What did James say at first?
In a trailer for the upcoming episode of his HBO show “The Shop,” James questioned why Griner would want to return to America.
James appeared to be referring to the Biden administration’s unhurried response to Griner’s detainment, which the State Department considers a wrongful detainment.
“Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” James said. “I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?'”
At the time of the comment, James said Griner had been detained for more than 110 days. As of July 13, Griner has been in Russian detainment for nearly 150 days.
The Shop Season 5 Episode 5 with LeBron James | Official Trailer | Uninterrupted
But what did James say later?
After his comments generated strong criticism, James said that he was not, in fact, bashing America.
Instead, James said he was referring to the range of emotions Griner must be experiencing in long-term Russian detainment.
“My comments on ‘The Shop’ regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country,” James wrote on Twitter. “I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days!”
— LeBron James (@LeBron James)
The Biden administration says officials are working tirelessly on Griner’s case, describing the situation as an “absolute priority.”
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is expected to travel to Russia in several weeks to help secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia for more than 3.5 years.