Sparks honor Brittney Griner with shoe delivery to the needy

Sparks guard Brittney Sykes and sneakers of all kinds awaited the young adults of Covenant House California Monday afternoon at the conclusion of a shoe drive honoring Brittney Griner.

The transitional youth, ages 18 to 24, lined up in the shelter’s courtyard to chat with Sykes and choose their favorite shoes, which were donated by the Sparks in partnership with the nonprofit Hav A Sole. Wearing a t-shirt that read “We Are BG,” Sykes listened to their stories and inspired them as they shopped for shoes collected during the WNBA season.

“These are pretty chic,” she said to one young woman, before persuading her to try the sneakers on.

That’s what Griner did in Phoenix for her Heart and Sole Shoe Drive before she was arrested by Russian officials in February while she was away playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg, an elite basketball club, during the WNBA offseason. At the time of her arrest at a Moscow airport, Russian officials said they found hash oil in Griner’s luggage.

The seven-time All-Star pleaded guilty to carrying the substance at a court hearing last week. Griner’s next court date is scheduled for July 26. You face up to 10 years in prison.

Since her arrest, Griner’s loved ones and people from across the sporting world have taken part in a campaign to bring her home. Griner’s supporters and the basketball star himself have called on the White House to negotiate a deal for their freedom. Griner wrote a letter to President Biden earlier this month urging him “not to forget me and the other American inmates. Please do whatever you can to bring us home.”

When the Sparks played the Phoenix Mercury in Los Angeles on July 4, the team threw a shoe drive in Griner’s honor. Known for keeping shoes in the trunk of her car to give to those in need, she inspired the Mercury to start annual shoe drives.

By giving back to the community, Sykes hopes to keep the conversation alive about Griner and her generous spirit.

“The opportunity to come here and work with Hav a Sole and work with Covenant House and have the opportunity to meet some really cool kids and just appreciate the fact that she saw something in Phoenix and wanted to help a problem , you can do that anywhere,” Sykes said.

The Sparks guard said it was bittersweet to deliver shoes to those in need because Griner was still incarcerated. When she thinks about it, Sykes said she is angry, particularly at the circumstances that led to her imprisonment. Many WNBA players travel abroad during the offseason to supplement their income, like Griner did last winter.

Sykes also said she felt sad and scared.

“Put yourself in their place. She’s away from her family. Imagine you are separated from your family. Imagine being separated from your wife,” Sykes said of Griner. “Imagine how her mother feels. Imagine how your family feels. It’s something you can’t imagine. It’s something you can only empathize with and just try to do something about. Just sitting and doing nothing is not okay.”

One way to help people, Sykes said, is to contact their elected officials and urge them to push for Griner’s release. While some have criticized Griner for breaking local laws, her supporters want people to know who she is off the basketball court.

Sykes said events like the Shoe Drive give people a glimpse into Griner’s character.

“Not only can people know her as a name and as a basketball player, but also as Brittney Griner, why we love her and why we want her here so badly,” Sykes said. “It’s about her giving back to the community, that she’s a loving friend, that she’s a fool, like a bright spirit. Her heart draws you to her, so we want her back. … This isn’t just a basketball player, she’s a human being and she needs to be back here with us.” Sparks honor Brittney Griner with shoe delivery to the needy

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