White House: President Biden Read Brittney Griner’s Appeal for Help Obtaining Freedom

Doric SamJuly 6, 2022

Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

United States President Joe Biden has read the letter from WNBA star Brittney Griner appealing to him directly for help in obtaining her freedom from detention in Russia.

According to ESPN, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday's regular press briefing that the situation surrounding Griner is "very personal to him," though she did not reveal his reaction to reading the letter.

The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury center has been detained since Feb. 17 when she was arrested at a Russian airport on charges of possessing cannabis oil. After multiple extensions of her detention, her trial began on July 1. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of large-scale transportation of drugs.

Griner's letter was delivered to the White House on Monday. Her representatives released excerpts, in which she stated that she feels "terrified I might be here forever." In her direct plea to Biden, she wrote, "Please don't forget about me and the other American detainees."

The letter continued, "I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home."

During an appearance on a morning talk show on Tuesday, Griner's wife Cherelle said she had yet to hear from Biden.

"I still have not heard from him and honestly, it's very disheartening," Cherelle Griner said on CBS Mornings.

Jean-Pierre noted that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Griner's wife recently, but she didn't say whether there are plans for Biden to speak to Griner's family. Cherelle Griner went on to illustrate how scared Brittney must be to resort to writing the letter to Biden.

"BG is probably the strongest person that I know. So she doesn't say words like that lightly," Cherelle said. "That means she truly is terrified that she may never see us again. And you know I share those same sentiments."

The U.S. State Department changed Griner's classification to "wrongfully detained" in May, a designation that allows the administration to move forward with negotiations for her release rather than waiting on the outcome of criminal proceedings.

Griner has now been detained for 138 days, and her trial is set to resume on Thursday. According to ESPN, "Fewer than one percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned."


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