Texas Democrats like Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Colin Allred are pledging to do everything in their power to free WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for over three weeks. Still, the path forward for Griner remains muddled as diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States have been frozen by the recent invasion in Ukraine.
Griner, who has played for the Phoenix Mercury since 2013, is one of the most accomplished athletes in the world. In 2012, she received the Best Female Athlete of the Year Award from ESPN at their annual ESPYs. Earlier that year Griner, who is from Houston, helped lead Baylor to the NCAA Championship.
Last month, Griner was arrested in the Moscow Airport after customs officials allegedly found vape cartridges in her luggage, which also contained hashish oil (which is illegal in Russia). Griner now faces a potential ten-year sentence.
Allred, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke to CNN yesterday about attempts to contact Griner. “They should just know that our government, the State Department, folks like myself in Congress on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we’re gonna do everything we can to get her home, to get any other American who’s been detained unjustly home,” Allred said to CNN.
Jackson Lee has also called upon Russia to release Griner. In an interview with MSNBC, Jackson Lee said that she presented a letter to President Biden about Griner’s detention. Jackson Lee also said that the State Department was aware of the situation.
As Griner remains detained in Russia, several sports writers in America have noted that her story is not generating the type of headlines that would likely occur if a major male sports star was facing a similar situation. One of the reasons Griner even plays in Russia is because WNBA salaries are capped to $228,000.
Several current and former athletes have also tried to amplify Griner’s plight, including Billie Jean King. LGBTQ organizations have also voiced concerns for the safety of Griner, who is married to a woman, and is being held in a country notoriously hostile to LGBTQ rights.
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