US State Department officials met on Monday with Brittney Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, to discuss the status of Griner’s monthslong detainment in Russia and efforts made toward securing her release.
Griner, one of the WNBA’s most recognizable stars, has been held in Russia since Feb. 17, after customs officials accused her of carrying hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
In May, the State Department said it determined that Griner had been “wrongfully detained.”
“It’s something that we have all talked about intimately as a group, and now know the State Department at the highest level, from US President Joe Biden to the team that is working on bringing back all Americans who are wrongly detained, gives us a A lot of confidence that they ‘re working on it, “Diana Taurasi, the Mercury’s star guard, said in a statement. “Anything that we can do to amplify our side and put BG first will be our number one priority.”
The meeting is also attended by the State Department, including the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, according to a department spokesman. Later, members of the Mercury spoke with Representatives Greg Stanton, Democrat of Arizona, and Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas. In May, Stanton, Jackson Lee and Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, introduced a resolution calling for Griner’s release.
The Mercury is in Washington to play on the Mystics on Tuesday.
Mercury forward Brianna Turner said the team is continuing to talk about Griner.
“They are encouraging us to keep her name, to keep them accountable to bring BG back home as soon as possible,” Turner said in a statement.
Griner was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a professional women’s basketball team, when he was detained. Many WNBA players supplement their incomes by playing the league’s off-season internationally, where top-tier athletes can draw draw salaries of about $ 1 million.
The drug charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison if Griner is convicted in Russia.
Initially, Griner’s supporters spoke little publicly about the detainment, fearing his situation would become part of a larger global conflict involving Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United States’ strained relationship with Russia.
That strategy shifted after the State Department declared Griner had been “wrongly detained” days after Russia expelled Trevor R. Reed, a former U.S. Marine who had been sentenced to nine years in prison for assault.
Reed’s freedom raised hopes for the release of Griner and Paul N. Whelan, a former US Marine who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Russia for espionage charges.
What to Know About Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia
In May, Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, appeared on “Good Morning America” and appealed to President Biden to intervene.
“I just keep hearing that he has the power,” Cherelle Griner said. “She’s a political pawn. If they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it. “
Brittney Griner’s supporters have followed in vocalizing their support for her release. Many WNBA players have worn T-shirts and hoodies in support of Griner, and his initials are displayed on the courts for all 12 WNBA teams.
Penny Taylor, Taurasi’s wife and one of Griner’s former teammates, used her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame last week to ask for Griner’s release.
“BG is our family,” said Taylor. “She’s yours, too. The entire global sport community needs to come together to insist that this is a priority. “