The House on Friday passed a bipartisan resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release WNBA star Brittney Griner.
“Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking of Brittney and working to get her home,” Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona, who sponsored the resolution, said in a statement. “We will continue to push for her release and make sure that she is not forgotten.”
Stanton previously served as mayor of Phoenix, where Griner plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
Stanton introduced the resolution in May along with Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Colin Allred of Texas, Griner’s home state.
“I’m grateful for this overwhelming show of support from Congress. We need to be doing all we can to keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and finally put an end to this nightmare,” Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, said in a statement.
Griner, 31, has been held in Russia since February on accusations of drug smuggling and has been officially classified as “wrongfully detained,” a US State Department official told CNN in May. As a result, her case is being handled by the Office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.
She will remain in Russian custody through at least July 2, after a Russian court extended her detention, Russian state news agency Tass reported last week.
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, when Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury plays in Russia during the league’s offseason.
Paul Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine, is also detained in Russia. Whelan was arrested in Moscow on espionage charges in 2018 and subsequently sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial US officials denounced as unfair.
Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who had been detained in Russia since 2019, was freed from Russia in late April as part of a prisoner exchange with the US. His release brought renewed attention to the cases of Whelan and Griner.
“This resolution sends a clear message: securing Brittney’s release must be the highest priority of the U.S. Government, and we know the American people support every effort made to bring her home,” said Terri Carmichael Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.