The U.S. Department of State has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being “wrongfully detained by the Russian government.
On Tuesday, the WNBA announced that all 12 teams will have a decal on their court that features Brittney Griner’s No. 42 and her initials, as they look to keep the star player who is currently being detained in Russia at the front of mind.
Griner was detained 75 days ago in Russia for allegedly bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage, and for the past two-plus months, the U.S. state department and Griner’s family have requested her situation be kept to a low profile to avoid her becoming a political pawn for Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. However, according to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, the U.S. has shifted its stance on Griner and is now classifying her as “wrongfully detained,” and will begin the process of trying to negotiate her release from Russia and return to the states.
Reached late Monday, a State Department official sent ESPN a statement, saying, “The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”
This comes on the heels of the release of U.S. Marine Trevor Reed from Russia last week as part of a negotiation that sent a Russian citizen back who had been accused of smuggling drugs. Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations turned international hostage negotiator, worked on Reed’s release and, per Quinn, has agreed to work on Griner’s case as well.
Hopefully this can be resolved quickly, but it’s impossible to know what a timetable may look like for when Griner could possibly return home. She has a hearing scheduled for May 19 in Russia, but the shift in designation from the U.S. means they no longer consider her legal situation in Russia relevant to her detainment.
Under the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, the State Department is required to classify whether U.S. detainees are being held unlawfully or wrongfully overseas.