The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the United States will work more aggressively to secure her release even as the legal case against her plays out, two officials said. Americans on Tuesday.
- The Biden administration has been under pressure to make his release a priority.
- Griner was arrested in Russia for vaping cannabis oil
- The WNBA will honor Ms. Griner with a floor decal throughout the season
Ms Griner was detained at an airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil.
Since then, US officials have stopped short of classifying the Phoenix Mercury player as wrongfully detained, saying instead their goal was to ensure she had access to US consular officers in jail.
However, they have now transferred oversight of his case to a section of the State Department, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which focuses on negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans classified as wrongfully detained in other countries.
“Brittney has been held for 75 days and we hope the White House will do whatever it takes to bring her home,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said.
WNBA Players Union President Nneka Ogwumike said in a separate statement that “75 days have passed since our friend, teammate and sister, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia.”
“It’s time for me to come home,” added Ms. Ogwumike.
It was unclear what prompted the shift in focus in Griner’s case, though the Biden administration had been under pressure from members of Congress and others to make his release a priority.
Last week, the US secured the release of Navy veteran Trevor Reed as part of a prisoner swap that also resulted in the release of a convicted Russian drug lord from US prison.
In addition to Griner, another American considered wrongfully detained in Russia is Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive who was arrested in December 2018 while visiting a friend’s wedding and later sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage-related charges. To his family. he says they are fake.
ESPN first reported the reclassification of Ms. Griner’s case.
Two US officials confirmed this on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it by name.
Meanwhile, the WNBA announced Tuesday that it would honor Ms. Griner with a floor decal and allow Mercury to pay her without it counting against the team’s salary cap.
The decal will feature Mrs. Griner’s initials, BG, as well as her number 42.
All 12 teams will have the decal on their home fields starting with the season opener on Friday night.