On Wednesday (December 21), Griner said in an Instagram post that the letters she received helped her stay optimistic during her nearly 10-month detainment in Russia. She called on her followers to show the same support for Whelan, per HuffPost.
“Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time where I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Because of you I never lost hope,” she wrote in a handwritten letter posted on Instagram. “Your letters were also bigger than uplifting me. They showed me the power of collective hands. Together, we can do hard things. I’m living proof of that. My family’s whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together. However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained.”
“I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families,” Griner said of the former marine, who's been detained for nearly four years.
The WNBA star also included a mailing address to send the letters of support, which was made available by Whelan's family.
Whelan was notably left out of the 1-for-1 prisoner swap involving Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout earlier this month. Despite Russia's refusal to negotiate his release, President Biden has said bringing Whelan home remains a top priority for the administration.
Whelan's family has also expressed support for Griner's release, applauding Biden for making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen” in a statement just weeks ago.