Brittney Griner’s Supporters Hold Steady After Guilty Plea

For the first time in a while, Terri Jackson, the executive director of the W.N.B.A. players’ union, felt hopeful about Brittney Griner.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, had spoken on the phone with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday morning. That evening, Jackson attended a rally to support Brittney Griner at the Footprint Center arena in Phoenix.

It had been hosted by the Phoenix Mercury and Representative Greg Stanton, Democrat of Arizona, with hundreds of Griner’s supporters on hand.

“It was emotional, it was a celebration, it was a renewed hope and renewed spirit,” Jackson said. “And yet, we are very mindful that we are not near the end.”

Jackson spoke Thursday afternoon, hours after Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a court near Moscow. Griner, the star Mercury center, has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, accused of having hashish oil in her luggage at a Russian airport.

Her trial on the drug charges began on July 1. But despite her guilty plea on Thursday, the support she has received from her representatives, friends, family, teammates and others has not waned.

“I think it made us more resolved to demonstrate our support for her and to recognize that Russia’s process is its own,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing like ours. And yet try to stay hopeful that there’s some forward progress to getting her home.”

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, called Griner a “model of courage” in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.

“BG’s service as an Olympian and global sport ambassador, caring for those most in need, has always distinguished her; but BG is also a human being whose family misses her,” Kagawa Colas said. “She deserves our compassion, understanding, love and support.”

Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, who has been working to secure Griner’s release, urged caution in reacting to her guilty plea, calling her prosecution a “sham trial” on Twitter.

“Remember that we should not draw any serious conclusions from this and that she was wrongfully detained in the first place,” Allred said.