CNN

As she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian honor – Megan Rapinoe paid tribute to detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, wearing a cream blazer with the initials ‘BG’ and a bouquet of flowers embroidered on the reverse.

“The most important part of the day… BG we love you,” Rapinoe said in an Instagram Story alongside a close-up photo of the embroidery detail.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February for drug trafficking and is officially classified as “wrongfully detained”, a US State Department official told CNN in May.

On Thursday, the same day Rapinoe received the Medal of Freedom, Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court.

The Phoenix Mercury star’s supporters have called for her release over fears she will be used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a sentiment shared by Rapinoe.

“BG is being used as a political pawn and we need to bring her home [sic] immediately,” she wrote on an Instagram story.

“This plea doesn’t change the fact that @potus needs her and is working hard to get her home. From what I understand, she had to plead for the process of coming home. BG, we are with you.

Some have speculated that Griner could be freed and returned to the United States in a prisoner exchange, much like Trevor Reed, an American veteran held in Russia for three years before his release in April. There is no indication that such a trade is imminent in Griner’s case.

Yet before any potential prisoner swap, Griner was expected to be convicted and also admit wrongdoing, a senior US official told CNN. Reed had to sign a document declaring him guilty – something he had resisted for most of his detention – just days before he was released, the official said.

“It is part of the show and the document has no legal force or effect in the United States. It effectively makes no sense,” Reed family spokesman Jonathan Franks said.

Rapinoe received the Medal of Freedom alongside 16 other recipients, including fellow Olympian Simone Biles.

In a speech introducing the star soccer player, President Joe Biden praised Rapinoe’s role in securing equal pay for the women’s team and her advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights.

“I am honored and truly honored to have been chosen for this award by President Biden and feel as inspired and motivated as ever to continue this long history of fighting for the freedoms of all,” Rapinoe said in a statement.

“To quote Emma Lazarus, ‘Until we are all free, none of us will be free.'”

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