The 2023 NAACP Image Awards were held Saturday (Feb. 25) evening in Pasadena, California. During the annual ceremony, Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, made a surprise appearance on stage.

It’s been roughly three months since the WNBA star touched down on United States soil after being placed in Russian custody. As previously reported by REVOLT, in February 2022, Brittney was detained while traveling overseas after a vape cartridge containing a form of cannabis oil was discovered in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport outside of Moscow. Although the contents were legally prescribed by a U.S. physician to treat chronic pain, the medical explanation held no merit under President Vladimir Putin’s law. She was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison, but thankfully, released after serving just under 10 months.

Actress Queen Latifah welcomed the couple on stage before the NAACP Image Awards audience, where they received a warm standing ovation. “Thank you for that beautiful applause,” Cherelle began. The devoted spouse was extremely vocal in her efforts to have the government bring the Olympian home during the troubling times — which also included a war between Russia and American ally Ukraine. “We are just truly so thankful to all the people — many of whom are Black women and Black-led organizations — who fought so hard to bring BG home tonight,” she continued.

Next, Brittney spoke, expressing gratitude to her supporters: “I want to thank everyone. And let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas. Thank you.” Although the Phoenix Mercury ballplayer was released, many United States citizens remain locked up abroad — most notably, former United States Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in custody since December 2018 after he was accused of being a spy. Following Brittney’s release last year, President Joe Biden said, “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”