LOS ANGELES (AP) — Soccer player Megan Rapinoe berated fellow athletes for not doing enough to speak up and encouraged them to support detained WNBA star Brittney Griner at the ESPYs on Wednesday night.

Griner was arrested in Russia in February after customs officials said they found vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.

“For me, the most striking thing is that BG is not there. BG deserves to be free, she’s being held as a political prisoner obviously,” Rapinoe said as she accepted the best game trophy on the show honoring the best athletes and sporting moments of the past year.

“For example, what are we doing here dressed as we are when our sister is detained abroad? We haven’t done enough, none of us. We can do more, we can support her more and let her know that we love her so much.

“First, take BG home. I have to do this,” said tennis great Billie Jean King.

Griner pleaded guilty in court and admitted possessing the cartridges, but said she had no criminal intent.

Rapinoe urged her fellow contestants to keep Griner’s face and name on social media.

“Every time we say it in interviews, it puts pressure on everyone,” she said. “It puts pressure on the administration, it puts pressure on Russia, it puts pressure on Putin, it puts pressure on everyone, and it also lets BG know above all else that we love and miss her and think about her all the time.

NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry hosted the show and joined WNBA players Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith in drawing attention to Griner’s plight.

“It has now been 153 nights that BG has been wrongfully detained thousands of miles from her home, away from her family, away from her friends, away from her team,” Diggins-Smith said. “Throughout this time we have kept her in our thoughts and in our hearts even though we know it’s not enough to bring her home, y’all.”

Wearing his Phoenix Mercury jersey under his tracksuit, Curry noted the efforts to free Griner.

“But while we hope for the best, we urge the entire global sporting community to continue to stay energized on their behalf,” he said. “She is one of us, the team of athletes in this room tonight and all over the world. A team that has nothing to do with politics or world conflicts.

They were applauded by Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, who was in the audience at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Curry also won a trophy for best record performance, having set the mark for most 3-pointers in league history. He also shared the Best Team award with NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani won the award for Best Athlete in Men’s Sports.

“It’s an honor to be in the same category as all of you. You are the best at what you do,” the Japanese player said, speaking in English via videotape. “Have fun and enjoy your afterparties.”

Olympic swimming champion Katie Ledecky won the award for best athlete in women’s sports.

Ledecky won two gold and two silver at the Tokyo Games last year, earning him 10 career Olympic medals. She received her trophy from Maybelle Blair, the 95-year-old who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

“I represent one of the few sports that is also a really important life skill, so I want to encourage all the parents here, anyone watching, to make sure your kids learn to swim,” Ledecky said. “Our planet is 70% water, so that’s very important.”

Former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, having made an impact on the world beyond sport. Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, since 2014, was not present. He appeared in a pre-recorded video.

King launched a 50th anniversary tribute to Title IX, federal legislation that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive government funding.

She was joined by Lisa Leslie, Brandi Chastain, Chloe Kim, Allyson Felix, Aly Raisman and Rapinoe, among others. They took the floor against a backdrop of black and white photos showing women athletes in action, on the field or in the streets advocating gender equality. Their comments were intercut with country singer Mickey Guyton performing her songs “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Remember his name”.

The ESPYS have come under fire from South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley for not inviting consensus player of the year Aliyah Boston to the show. Boston had hoped to attend and was disappointed not to have been invited. She received a last-minute invitation but declined it.

ESPN said COVID-19 concerns and a smaller venue forced organizers to prioritize show guests. Boston was nominated in a non-television category that was given away the night before. She lost to Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo, who competed in the Title IX tribute.

ESPN college basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale has received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. The 83-year-old has undergone several melanoma surgeries and six months of chemotherapy for lymphoma over the past year. In March, he said he was cancer free.

Vitale dismissed messages on the teleprompter urging him to wrap up his remarks, which lasted 20 minutes.

“I’ll wrap up in about three minutes,” he said hoarsely. “Jimmy’s dream was to beat cancer. We have to do it because there is no discrimination. It comes after all.


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