Brittney Griner Release Proposal Made to Russia, Says USA Secretary of State Blinken

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 27, 2022

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27, 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)

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. has presented Russia with a release proposal for WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Blinken said Wednesday that the United States "put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago." He said he will demand Griner's release when he speaks to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Griner, a center with the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained by authorities in Russia since February.

Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez and Jennifer Hansler of CNN reported President Joe Biden's administration offered Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in a deal to return Griner and Paul Whelan to the United States.

Bout is serving a 25-year U.S. prison sentence, while Whelan has been held by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018.

According to CNN, U.S. officials familiar with U.S.-Russia negotiations said Griner's trial will need to conclude before any deal is completed.

The Associated Press (h/t ESPN) reported Griner testified during her trial Wednesday that an interpreter didn't give her a complete translation when she was detained in February, and she also wasn't explained her rights or offered a lawyer. She said she was told to sign documents without proper explanation.

While Griner pleaded guilty to having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she was detained in February, she said a doctor recommended she use them for chronic pain. She also said she had no criminal intent to bring them into the country and was unsure how they were in her luggage.

The United States has officially deemed Griner, who faces up to 10 years in prison, as "wrongfully detained."

Players and teams across the WNBA and the sports world have called for Griner's return. The WNBA named her an honorary All-Star in this year's game, the eighth selection of a career that also includes two Olympic gold medals and a WNBA title.