EUROPE — As Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia lingers on, more people are banding together to get her released. More than 40 minority organizations teamed up to sign a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to negotiate Griner’s immediate release.
“We join Brittney’s family, friends, colleagues and loved ones in deep appreciation of your administration’s ongoing efforts to secure her freedom,” the organizations wrote in a one-page letter. “The U.S. Government has acknowledged that Brittney is essentially a political pawn in classifying her as wrongfully detained. While these have been critically important measures, we now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely.”
The letter was sent to The White House on Wednesday with signatures from groups including the WNBA Players Association, the National Women Soccer League Players Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and the National Urban League.
"This month our nation honors America’s diverse journey towards freedom, equality and justice for all with the observation of the Juneteenth Federal holiday, the 50th anniversary of landmark Title IX legislation and LGBTQ+ Pride,” the letter reads. “Brittney’s intersectional identity embodies this celebration of America’s strength and diversity. As a celebrated world-class athlete, she also demonstrates the uniquely unifying power of sports. Brittney’s ongoing detention threatens the sanctity of sport and the safety of all athletes traveling to compete internationally."
For more than 120 days, Griner has been detained in Russia. And for the third time, her pre-trial detention has been extended, with the most recent being six months. The news came after the WNBA announced the 2X-Olympian as an honorary All-Star starter. The WNBA All-Star game will take place in Chicago on July 10. Multiple players have showed their support for Griner posting videos to social media and urging people to sign the petition for her release.
“#WeAreNotThe144WithoutBG,” the WNBPA tweeted. “She has been named an All-Star seven times prior and was named to the WNBA’s 25th anniversary team last year as one of its 25 greatest players. Players continue to speak out about her detainment after games and on social media.”
Griner was arrested on Feb. 17 for allegedly having vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in luggage that was searched at the Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow. If convicted of the offense, the 31-year-old athlete could face up to 10 years in prison. As pressure mounts for the government to negotiate Griner’s return, officials insist Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ stance remains the same.
“President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home.”
After news of Griner’s detention being extended by a Moscow court on Monday, Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas backed calls for Biden and Harris to take action.
“Today’s hearing was administrative in nature and not on the merits,” tweeted Colas. “That said, the fact remains that the U.S. Government has determined that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained and being used as a political pawn. The negotiation for her immediate release regardless of the legal proceedings should remain a top priority and we expect @POTUS and @VP to do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home.”