Griner, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and a member of the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team, was detained in February at an airport outside Moscow where officials said they found cartridges of hashish oil in her luggage. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison.
US consular officials were not allowed to visit her for weeks, but that finally changed on March 23. “We are in frequent contact with her legal team, with her broader network, and we have no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans, including those who are incarcerated in Russia,” State spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on April 12.
Griner had been in Russia playing for the UMMC Ekaterinburg team during the WNBA’s off-season — a situation that her sports agent, Lindsay Kogawa Colas, said was made necessary due to the double standards and limited financial opportunities for women athletes in the US.
“So while her detention has risen to the top of news for its geopolitical relevance, supercharged by celebrity, at its underbelly lies a story of gender-pay disparity here in the United States,” Kogawa Colas wrote in a piece for the Los Angeles Times published on Tuesday.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has asked for privacy as the family works to bring her home, with those close to her fearful that she will be used as a political pawn.
While Kogawa Colas said there was a small “community” of activists working every day to secure Griner’s release, she acknowledged the need to move delicately in describing the circumstances of her detention.
“It’s a community that chooses its words carefully, that’s used to moving together as a unit,” Kogawa Colas said. “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.”
In their statement on Wednesday celebrating Reed’s release, his family also noted the other Americans who are being held in Russia.
“We stand proudly with the Whelan family and all the other families of wrongfully detained Americans who are still waiting for their own release moment,” the Reed family said. “We will continue to advocate for the rapid release of hostages and detainees using all tools available to the United States government.”
Biden said that his administration remains committed to “bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.”
“We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends,” he said.