A new campaign unites several high-profile human rights and advocacy organizations in an effort to spur the Biden administration to action.
It’s been more than four months since WNBA superstar Brittney Griner was stopped in a Moscow airport and arrested for allegedly possessing cannabis oil. In that time, Griner’s detention by Russian authorities has become one of the most fraught pubic diplomatic tug-of-wars between the U.S. and the Kremlin in recent memory — a situation complicated by the ongoing Russian imperialist invasion of Ukraine, and American support for the Ukrainian government under siege.
On Wednesday, efforts to bring Griner back home to the U.S. ratcheted up a notch, with dozens of advocacy groups and organizations demanding the White House “make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely” in a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. According to The New York Times, signatories to the letter include high-profile groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, National Organization of Women, and the National Urban League, and represent a wide swath of the Democratic base instrumental in helping the party remain in power.
“To my understanding, they have not started negotiating her release, and so this letter is very powerful because it’s much-needed support to highlight the fact that we are at the phase where you guys should be making a deal,” Griner’s wife Cherelle told the Times, adding that she couldn’t understand the White House’s current actions — or lack thereof — toward getting Griner home.
Adding to the frustration over Griner’s detention, and the relative silence thereof, the Associated Press on Tuesday reported that Griner had recently attempted to call Cherelle nearly a dozen times this past weekend for their anniversary, but the calls had not gone through because the American Embassy in Russia’s phone line was not staffed. The call had been previously approved by the Russian government and arranged via the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The U.S. State Department called the incident a “logistical error,” but for Cherelle Griner, this weekend’s snafu was a bridge too far.
“I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now,” she told AP. “If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home? Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”
Wednesday’s letter marks a significant escalation in the already high-profile public campaign to bring Griner back to the U.S., with the sheer number and political heft of the signatory organizations offering a not-so-subtle show of force on the issue to an administration that has, thus far, been seemingly content to let Griner’s detention continue relatively unchallenged.