A Year Lost and Found: Brittney Griner's Story of Survival - Jen Hatmaker

A Year Lost and Found: Brittney Griner’s Story of Survival

For this special bonus episode, Jen talks with WNBA star, Brittney Griner, who shares her powerful story of resilience after she was wrongfully detained in Russian prisons for nearly a year. Brittney provides a heartbreaking firsthand account of the inhumane conditions she endured, from the lack of legal rights and translators to cruel psychological tactics by guards. She opens up about the pivotal role her faith played in giving her mental strength to survive.

Brittney also discusses the ongoing trauma she has faced since returning home, and the renewed sense of motivation to use her voice and platform to advocate for other detainees abroad still seeking freedom. 

Jen and Brittney discuss:

  • Griner’s harrowing account of being imprisoned in Russia and how she’s fighting to get more US prisoners home
  • The pivotal role her faith and reading the Bible played in giving her strength to survive mentally and emotionally.
  • Her candid discussion of the ongoing trauma she’s working through since returning to the U.S.
  • Her optimism about the WNBA’s rising popularity to force meaningful change in addressing the glaring pay gap with men’s basketball.
Episode Transcript

Hey everyone. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. I know why you hit download. This is a special bonus episode on the podcast today and I am honored and I’m humbled that she’s here. I was absolutely looking forward to this conversation with such a courageous and incredible person who has been through such an ordeal and I was moved by how candid, honest, and tender she was in this interview. Obviously, I’m talking about Brittney Griner. 

Brittney was detained in Russia for nearly ten months, two years ago. She’s a world class athlete and she was going over to Russia for her International League, which she had done for ten years. After a nearly empty cannabis oil vape and cartridge were found in her luggage, she was taken to Russian jail. It was deemed a wrongful detainment and sparked international outrage, obvious concerns over her safety. After a pretty arduous back-channel negotiation, Brittney was finally released in a prisoner swap in December of 2022. In her new book, which is called, appropriately, “Coming Home”, (it just released on May 7th), she goes into pretty great detail about surviving the mental and physical trauma while detained, incarcerated, and isolated for so long. It’s unbelievable and frankly, it’s generous of her to give this much of her story to the wider public like this. We get into it and she spares nothing. Her writing the book and then talking to us about it she has to relive a lot of it. So I’m grateful that she’s willing to tell this story at a personal cost and we’re relieved to have her home. 

So we dive in today to the harrowing experience — the realities of what day-to-day life in Russian detainment looked like, how she survived it, what she learned, and what she’s hopeful for now. Just in case you didn’t know, Brittney Griner is one of the most decorated and influential athletes of her generation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but she’s an NCAA champion where she played for Baylor, she’s a WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and winner of the Best Female Athlete ESPY award. She was the number one pick in the 2013 WNBA draft to the Phoenix Mercury, named Rookie of the Year that season, and then went on to lead the Mercury to the 2014 WNBA Championship. She’s a member of the WNBA’s 2021 Top 25 players of all time. She’s a 9x WNBA all-star, and Brittney is the first openly gay American pro athlete to sign a major shoe and apparel deal with a little company called Nike. Outside of that, she’s a huge supporter of LGBTQ+ causes. She’s worked with the “It Gets Better Project” and other organizations that serve youth facing harassment and bullying. She’s a native of Houston, the proud daughter of a military vet and retired law enforcement officer. She’s also partnered with organizations serving veterans and people experiencing homelessness. She’s not just a world-class athlete, she’s a world-class person. She’s married to Cherelle who she met at Baylor and fun news, Cherelle and Brittney just recently announced they are expecting their first child this summer. Everything’s coming up roses for her. I’m so happy for her. Welcome to the show and enjoy this fascinating conversation with the outstanding Brittney Griner

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