NEW YORK – The WNBA announced today that Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has earned the Seasonlong WNBA Cares Community Assist Award in recognition of her extensive work in championing the safe return of wrongful detainees overseas and helping marginalized communities in Phoenix.
Griner, the June WNBA Cares Community Assist Award recipient, is the second consecutive Mercury player to win the honor. Mercury forward Brianna Turner received the award last season.
“I’m grateful to receive this recognition from the WNBA but even more grateful to the X-Factor fans, fans all around the league, and our Phoenix Mercury organization for working together this year to make a difference through my Heart and Sole Shoe Drive and Bring Our Families Home,” said Griner. “I know the opportunity, privilege and responsibility I have to make a difference in the lives of others, and I’ll always remain committed to that.”
Since rejoining the Mercury in February 2023 after being wrongfully detained in Russia, Griner has focused on two service initiatives: Bring Our Families Home (BOFH), a campaign comprised of families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas that advocates to spread awareness about their cases and safe return home; and the BG Heart & Sole Shoe Drive, which supports unhoused individuals in the Phoenix community.
Throughout the 2023 WNBA season, Griner teamed up with BOFH to tell the stories of wrongfully detained Americans abroad. The campaign launched in April with the unveiling of a mural at the Mercury’s home arena, Footprint Center, that featured the face of Griner and more than a dozen detained individuals. The 30-foot-wide painting features a QR code that directs to www.BringOurFamiliesHome.org, educating fans about the mission and how to get involved.
Griner and the Mercury hosted families and friends of wrongful detainees at Mercury games in Phoenix and around the country when the team visited other markets, and incorporated in-game PSAs and social media content to keep the names and stories of those detained top-of-mind. Additionally, the BOFH logo was affixed to the Mercury’s home court the entire 2023 season.
As part of the partnership with BOFH, the Mercury set up a letter-writing station at every regular season home game for fans to draft handwritten notes of hope and encouragement to those detained and calls for action to elected officials to continue to work to bring individuals home. Other WNBA teams also participated in the letter-writing campaign at their home games against Phoenix.
Griner founded the BG Heart & Sole Shoe Drive in 2016 to provide new and lightly used shoes to unhoused individuals in the Phoenix metro area. In partnership with the non-profit Phoenix Rescue Mission, Griner’s initiative collected and distributed nearly 3,000 pairs of shoes this season, in addition to other necessary items such as shirts, backpacks, hats and hygiene products.
Additional highlights of Griner’s efforts in the community during the 2023 WNBA season are included below:
- BOFH awareness for families: The Mercury content team, on behalf of Griner, elevated the voices of families of several currently detained individuals including family of Zack Shahin, Emad Shargi (returned home in September 2023), Morad Tahbaz (returned home in September 2023), Luke Denman, Austin Tice, Eyvin Hernandez and Alexandra Forseth (co-founder of BOFH campaign).
- BG’s Heart & Sole Shoe Drive: Before Phoenix’s first home game of the season, a Mercury season-ticket holder inspired by Griner’s commitment donated 452 pairs of shoes that had been collected in the offseason. On May 26, Griner participated in the first shoe distribution of the season, at a soup kitchen in downtown Phoenix. On Sept. 6, the Mercury hosted its second distribution event at the St. Vincent de Paul Washington Street Shelter in south Phoenix.
The WNBA Cares Community Assist Award is awarded monthly during the season to the player who best reflects the WNBA’s passion to make a difference in the community. In recognition of Griner’s commitment to the community throughout the 2023 WNBA season, the WNBA will donate $20,000 to be split among charities of Griner’s choice: Bring our Families Home and Phoenix Rescue Mission.