Brittney Griner's Immediate Release Subject of Bipartisan US Senate Resolution

Erin WalshJuly 21, 2022

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

A bipartisan resolution introduced by Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona in the United States Senate on Thursday calls for the immediate release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Kelly said in a statement:

"I've worked with the State Department to make sure that Brittney Griner's safe return is a top priority, and this bipartisan resolution shows the Senate's support for her as well. Brittney Griner is an inspiration to Arizonans and Americans across the country. I've had the pleasure of meeting her and seeing her talent on the court up close. The Russian government unjustly detained Brittney and we will keep working with the administration to ensure her safe and swift return."

The resolution calls for the United States to push for Griner's release in all interactions with Russia. It also calls for Russia to provide the WNBA star with consular access as she continues to remain in custody. She has been detained for 154 days as of Thursday.

In addition, it voices support for Paul Whelan, another American who is detained in Russia, and other "prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation."

The resolution was co-written by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and co-sponsored by 27 senators, including Sens. Raphael Warnock, Amy Klobuchar, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17 after being arrested at a Moscow airport for allegedly carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty in Russian court earlier this month and faces up to 10 years in Russian prison if convicted. The guilty plea could be a tactic to speed up the trial or be required in order to facilitate a possible prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia, per the AP's Jim Heintz.

The 31-year-old wrote a letter directly to President Joe Biden earlier this month asking for help in obtaining her freedom.

"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other American Detainees," an excerpt of the letter read, per ESPN's TJ Quinn. "Please do all that you can to bring us home. 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."

The Biden administration reclassified Griner as wrongfully detained in May. By doing so, the U.S. signaled that it would not wait for her case to play out in a Russian court and instead begin negotiations for her release.

Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday "aimed at increasing the flow of information to families of Americans detained abroad and at imposing sanctions on the criminals, terrorists or government officials who hold them captive," per Eric Tucker of the Associated Press.

The U.S. State Department is continuing to work diligently for Griner's release and still views the case as a "top priority."

Griner has been in the WNBA since being selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA draft. Since then she has earned seven All-Star selections in nine seasons and has also represented the United States at the Olympics.