As WNBA star Brittney Griner continues to be detained on drug charges in Russia, Texas congressman Colin Allred is working with the State Department for her release. ESPN reports that Allred (D-TX), who is also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is trying to get consular access for the Phoenix Mercury center.
“My office has been in touch with the State Department, and we’re working with them to see what is the best way forward,” Allred said. “I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it’s also happening in the context of really strained relations. I do think that it’s really unusual that we’ve not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services.”
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport last month when police say she allegedly had vape cartridges containing hash oil in her carry on luggage. Though she does have a Russian lawyer, there are no details on where Griner is being held or at what point in the Russian legal process she is.
“The Russian criminal justice system is very different than ours, very opaque. We don’t have a lot of insight into where she is in that process right now,” Allred said. “But she’s been held for three weeks now, and that’s extremely concerning.”
While the U.S. State Department had strongly recommended American citizens leave Russia before its invasion of Ukraine, Griner, like many WNBA players, makes the majority of her money playing overseas. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like Griner may be a pawn in larger international conflicts.
“This would normally be run through our embassy or consular services in the country,” the congressman said. “It’s also true that we’re drawing down some of our embassy personnel in Moscow and the State Department has asked all Americans in Russian to leave. But I don’t think that’s going to impact the ability for them to advocate on her behalf.”
As if increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States wasn’t concerning enough, Griner is a high profile queer woman of color being detained in a country that has anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
California congressman John Garamendi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, thinks it will be difficult to secure Griner’s release under the current circumstances.
“Our diplomatic relationships with Russia are nonexistent at the moment,” Garamendi (D-CA) told CNN. “Perhaps during the various negotiations that may take place, she might be able to be one of the solutions. I don’t know.”
The basketball star’s wife Cherelle Griner posted a message to Brittney on Instagram on Monday writing, “We love you babe! People say ‘stay busy.’ Yet, there’s not a task in this world that could keep any of us from worrying about you. My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by. I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person! There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”