Though there’s been no public news on WNBA star Brittney Griner, her family and friends are still advocating for her release from a Russian prison. As such, the Phoenix Mercury center’s wife, Cherelle Griner, will get a chance to discuss her wife’s detainment with President Biden when she meets with him at the White House on Friday.
According to ESPN, Cherelle, along with Brittney’s agent and the family of former Marine Paul Whelan, are set to have separate meetings with the president. The WNBA champion’s wife previously spoke with the president on the phone in July.
“He wanted to let them know that they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day on making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Thursday’s press briefing.
The meeting comes as former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who has been working with the two countries to get a deal in place, met with officials in Moscow over the weekend, though the Richardson Center told CNN, “at this point, we are not able to comment on this.”
Per Reuters, the United States has distanced itself from Richardson’s efforts, stating that his trip wasn’t arranged through the American Embassy in Moscow.
“In this case, we believe that any efforts that fall outside of that officially designated channel have the potential to complicate what is already an extraordinarily complicated challenge that we face,” Ned Price, a department spokesperson, said during a news briefing on Wednesday.
As previously reported by The Root, in June the U.S. State Department reportedly offered a deal to exchange Griner and Whelan for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving 25 years in federal prison.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia since Feb. 17. She was stopped at a Moscow airport when police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. On Aug. 8, the eight-time All-Star was found guilty of drug possession and smuggling and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
Since the end of her trial, negotiations for the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s release have been quietly happening between Russia and the U.S., but the strained relationship between the countries has made the situation more difficult to navigate.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who gets the deal made, as long as Brittney makes it home.