Brittney Griner's Detention Subject of Meeting Between US State Dept., Mercury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 13, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 8: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury looks on during the game against the Las Vegas Aces during Game Five of the 2021 WNBA Semifinals on October 8, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Representatives from the Phoenix Mercury met with U.S. State Department officials Monday to discuss Brittney Griner's ongoing wrongful detention in Russia.

Griner has been in custody for 116 days after being arrested at a Russian airport in February.

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

116 days. <br><br>Bring Brittney home. <a href="https://t.co/9wX62RmU0M">pic.twitter.com/9wX62RmU0M</a>

The Mercury said they also spoke with Rep. Greg Stanton and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee following their meeting with the state department.

Duane Rankin @DuaneRankin

"Number one priority." Diana Taurasi.<br><br>Phoenix Mercury met this morning with U.S. Department of State to discuss Brittney Griner's "wrongful detention in Russia" and later talked with Greg Stanton (Arizona) and Shelia Jackson Lee (Texas) of the U.S. Congress. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/4TheValley?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#4TheValley</a> <a href="https://t.co/2qcjW1pds0">pic.twitter.com/2qcjW1pds0</a>

"There is a lot involved in getting her back home and safe, they're working relentlessly," Mercury star Diana Taurasi said. "We're here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that's going on in our lives. We want BG to come home as soon as possible, it's No. 1 on our list."

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

The Phoenix Mercury players, coaches, staff and WNBPA staff met this morning with members of the United States Department of State to discuss the status of Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention in Russia. <a href="https://t.co/A4wzxT4BuZ">pic.twitter.com/A4wzxT4BuZ</a>

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

<a href="https://t.co/83gtP0Cs3l">pic.twitter.com/83gtP0Cs3l</a>

News of Griner's arrest first surfaced in March, several weeks after she was initially detained.

As the story was evolving, there were concerns about whether publicizing her arrest and advocating for her release would exacerbate her situation. ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Mechelle Voepel interviewed Tom Firestone, a lawyer and former legal adviser for the U.S. embassy in Moscow who explained the delicate balance at play:

"Sometimes cases like this are better off handled in a low-key approach through the criminal justice system. I think the concern is, if it becomes too high-profile, if it becomes political, then the Russian government may dig into their position. It may make it difficult for her to get a good resolution of the case, and she could become a pawn in a bigger political battle."

With little in the way of progress, the public tenor is beginning to change.

In mid-March, a Moscow court ruled Griner would remain in custody until at least May 19. Then her detention was extended again until June 18. In between those developments, the State Department officially classified her as "wrongfully detained," meaning the U.S. would "no longer wait for Griner's case to play out through the Russian legal system and [would] seek to negotiate her return," per Quinn.