Securing release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia remains a priority, US officials say

Securing release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia remains a priority, US officials say

As news broke Wednesday that North Texan Trevor Reed would soon be reunited with his family, the Biden administration said it has not forgotten other Americans who remain locked up in Russia.

WNBA star Brittney Griner, a Houston native who previously dominated the college game at Baylor University, was arrested in mid-February over allegations that authorities had found cartridges with a cannabis derivative in her luggage.

Her detention has been extended until May 19, at which time it’s possible more will be revealed about her case. Russian officials say she’s facing up to ten years in prison.

“We are working very closely with her team. Her case is a top priority for us,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN Wednesday morning. “I can tell you that with the utmost certainty. We’re in regular contact with her team, we regularly are engaging through our embassy in Moscow with their counterparts in order to see to it that she’s treated fairly, to see to it that we have the consistent access to her that the Russians are required under the Vienna convention to provide.”

Price also added:

“We will continue to pay very close attention to this case, to seek its resolution as we seek the release of Paul Whelan.”

Whelan is a corporate security executive from Michigan who is being held on espionage charges viewed as bogus by his family and the US government.

Some social media users welcomed Wednesday Reed’s release but questioned why Griner wasn’t included in the prisoner swap.

Reed’s parents made numerous public appeals to bring attention to his case, seeking and eventually receiving an in-person meeting with President Joe Biden. Griner’s supporters, in contrast, have adopted a more under-the-radar approach in light of ongoing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner representative Lindsay Kagawa Colas wrote an op-ed that appeared in Tuesday’s LA Times in which she referred to behind-the-scenes efforts to secure Griner’s release.

“I spend hours in communication every day with a dedicated group of people who are working to get BG home,” Colas wrote. “It is a community filled with activists — including WNBA players who’ve led some of our most important cultural conversations in recent years. It’s a community that chooses its words carefully, that’s used to move together as a unit. For now, that community is doing its best to trust in BG’s legal team and have confidence in the White House’s commitment to doing everything in their power to bring Brittney home.”

Her op-ed also focused on a call for expanding opportunities for female athletes in the United States, the lack of which has prompted even marquee players such as Griner to play for teams in Russia and other countries during their offseason to boost their earnings.

Colas wrote that there is no magic wand that would allow the league to immediately raise player salaries.

“And yet the same system that rendered a woman who is a generational talent nearly invisible until she was detained in Russia offers a rich ecosystem of income opportunities that are almost exclusively available for men,” she wrote.

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