The WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks donated dozens of pairs of shoes to children experiencing homelessness Monday. The shoes were donated, in part, to honor WNBA star Brittney Griner who currently remains detained in Russia.
Front office executives from the Sparks, alongside guard Brittney Sykes, delivered the shoes to Covenant House California Monday evening. Covenant House is a nonprofit that provides “sanctuary and support” for homeless youth throughout the area.
The shoes were collected throughout the WNBA season in collaboration with Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, and her annual Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. As the Mercury visited all 12 cities with WNBA teams, people were encouraged to bring new or lightly used shoes to be donated to local causes.
The shoe drive was originally an initiative by Griner to help those in need in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
This year, as Griner remains detained in Russia, the drive was expanded throughout the league in her honor. The local shoe drive was held in Los Angeles on July 4 when the Sparks and Mercury faced off in the Crypto.com arena.
Griner is currently in the middle of a trial in a Russian court after she was arrested earlier this year for possessing cannabis. The two-time Olympian has pleaded guilty to the charge, but because of Russia’s legal process, the trial is ongoing. She is due in court again next week.
President Joe Biden has said she was “wrongly detained” and is being held as a political prisoner due to the contentious and frigid relationship between Moscow and Washington.
Stateside, the basketball community has urged for her release through social media posts and tributes. She was named as an honorary starter in the WNBA All Star game earlier this month and in May, the Phoenix Suns of the NBA unveiled a tribute to Griner on their home court.
During Monday’s event, Sykes and other members of the Sparks organization wore shirts that read: “We are BG.”
Covenant House’s L.A. location is at 1325 N Western Ave. near Hollywood. The nonprofit HavASole also contributed to the shoe drive.