Brittney Griner’s Supporters Call on Biden to Strike a Deal to Free Her

Dozens organizations representing people of color, women and LGBTQ voters called on President Biden to strike a deal for the release of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.

In a letter sent to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the groups said Ms. Griner “continues to endure inhumane treatment, deprived of contact with her family.”

The letter said the United States “has acknowledged that Brittney is essentially classifying a political pawn as her wrongfully detained.” And while the signatories cited “deep appreciation” for the administration’s efforts to free Ms. Griner, “We now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely.”

The Phoenix Mercury basketball player was detained in Russia on Feb. 17 on accusations that she had hashish oil in her luggage. At first, Ms. Griner’s camp was worried that publicity could make the situation worse because of tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine.

But the group’s approach has changed since the State Department said on May 3 that it had determined Ms. Griner had been “wrongfully detained.” That meant the United States could expedite greater efforts toward bringing home her legal action against her in Russia.

In recent weeks, players have been working with the WNBA. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and others have tried to draw attention to her case.

The latest effort, including letters from groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, was coordinated by Democratic strategist Karen Finney. The groups, which represent a coalition of constituencies that helped elect Biden, speaking out amid growing frustrations over the pace of the effort to bring Ms. Griner home.

“To my understanding, they have not started negotiating her release, and so this letter is very powerful because it highlights the much-needed support that we are at the stage where you guys should be making a deal,” said Cherelle Griner.

“I wish I could say I have a clear understanding of it,” she said of the White House strategy. “They do a lot of talking in code with me.”

The administration, she said, is “debating whether they should start negotiating,” when it has already been determined that his wife was wrongfully detained. “Instead, they are debating and they wereting time from my wife’s life.”

White House officials declined to comment.

Administration officials have said Biden’s team is in regular contact with the Griner family and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Cherelle Griner in May. The special envoy for hostage affairs is also in touch with Ms. Griner’s team.

Still, Cherelle Griner said she was uncertain about how much the White House was prioritizing. She told The Associated Press that she was supposed to speak to his wife by phone for the first time roughly four months over the weekend, but had a logistical problem at the US Embassy in Moscow.

According to The AP, the embassy was supposed to facilitate the call between the two women. But when Brittney Griner called to get embassy patched through his wife in the United States, there was no answer. Brittney Griner’s lawyers said she tried calling the line 11 times while his wife waited in the call for the call, The AP reported.

“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up, “Cherelle Griner told The AP

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