“We were hoping for some mercy today”: Mercury president responds to Griner’s appeal rejection

Arizona’s Family asked Vince Kozar candidly about the real possibility Brittney Griner may never get to play in another WNBA game here again.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 9:22 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The president of the Phoenix Mercury responded to Brittney Griner’s appeal rejection Tuesday after a Russian court denied her appeal to her 9-year prison sentence for drug possession charges there.

“It’s hard to say she’s doing well, given the circumstance,” said Vince Kozar. “Unfortunately, we were hoping for some mercy today and we didn’t receive any of that.”

Kozar isn’t just the president of the Phoenix Mercury, he’s a close friend and colleague of Griner. The 32-year-old’s appeal was rejected Tuesday. Griner is serving nine years in a Russian prison cell, convicted after being arrested in February for having vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage.

Arizona’s Family asked Kozar candidly about the real possibility Brittney Griner may never get to play in another WNBA game here again. “What do you say if that is reality?” asked reporter Briana Whitney. “Yeah, again I think this is a reminder that there are things a lot more important than basketball, and Brittney coming home is at the very, very, very top of that list for all of us. Even if she comes home tomorrow and never plays again,” Kozar said.

But Kozar said he and the team remain hopeful a prisoner swap can and will be done between the United States and Russia to bring her home and thank the Biden administration for their commitment towards that.

In the meantime, they’re keeping BG’s energy and spirit alive here in Phoenix. “We channel that into her signature philanthropic initiative which is her ‘Heart and Sole’ shoe drive,” Kozar said.

The Phoenix Suns joined the Mercury in that cause. On Tuesday night, they hosted a shoe donation at Footprint Center ahead of their game against the Warriors that benefits the Phoenix Rescue Mission. This past season the Mercury collected 3,200 pairs of shoes, more collected in the first four years of the program combined.

Kozar said while the strain on everyone with Griner gone is painful, one person is keeping him going, and that’s Griner herself. Griner writes letters to Kozar sometimes about basketball and other times just about how she’s doing given the circumstances.

“What I always tell people is when I get letters from her, I still hear her voice in those words. It still sounds like BG, and as long as it sounds like BG, whether it’s her sense of humor or the way she talks, to me if she still sounds like that, I know she’s doing okay,” Kozar said.

As for what happens now, unless the United States makes a prisoner swap deal with Russia, Brittney Griner could continue to appeal her case all the way up to the Russian supreme court.