Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for 117 days.
Ahead of their Tuesday night game against the Washington Mystics, players and staff from the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury met with officials from the U.S. State Department about their teammate Griner, per ESPN.
The Mercury center has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 when she was stopped at a Moscow airport after police said they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. With the situation exacerbated by the strained relationship between Russia and the United States, Griner was officially classified as wrongfully detained in May. The change in status allows her family, friends and teammates to openly advocate for Griner’s release.
The Mercury met with State Department “officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans.” Following the meeting, Phoenix superstar Diana Taurasi spoke about how important it is for her and her teammates to bring Brittney home.
“There is a lot involved in getting her back home and safe; they’re working relentlessly,” Taurasi said in a statement. “We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives. We want BG to come home as soon as possible; it’s number one on our list.”
“Knowing the State Department at the highest level, from U.S. President Joe Biden to the team that is working on bringing back all Americans who are wrongfully detained, gives us a lot of confidence that they’re working on it,’’ Taurasi continued.
The team’s coach Vanessa Nygaard noted that Brittney’s team will keep using its voice to encourage those in power to get Griner back with her family.
“It was great to hear from the State Department that we should continue to amplify that message and that we should continue to press all those who have any influence or power to help bring BG home,” Nygaard said. “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back home.’’
Following its State Department meeting, the team had a virtual conversation with Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ) and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who represents Griner’s hometown Houston.
“For the team, coaches and executives at the Mercury, every day without Brittney is a lifetime,’’ Stanton said. “I was glad for the opportunity to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Brittney’s release.’’
Something we’ve heard several times, including from former Russian detainee Trevor Reed, is how important it is that we don’t let Brittney think she’s been forgotten.
“This is extremely important to bringing Americans home is the community and citizens getting involved and getting loud,” Reed said on June 6 at a Houston rally supporting Griner.