Dozens of organizations representing people of color, women and LGBTQ voters called President Joe Biden on Wednesday to make a deal for the release of Brittany GrinerA WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.
In a letter sent to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the groups said Griner “continues to be treated inhumanely, deprived of contact with his family.”
The letter states that the United States has “acknowledged that Brittany is essentially a political pawn in classifying her as unfairly detained.” And while the signatories cited “deep appreciation” for the administration’s efforts to free Griner, “we now urge you to strike a deal to bring Brittany back to America quickly and safely.”
Phoenix Mercury basketball player was detained in Russia February 17 on allegations that he had hashish oil in his luggage. At first, Griner’s camp was concerned that propaganda might worsen the situation due to tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine.
But the group’s perspective has changed State Department said May 3 that he had determined that Griner had been “wrongfully detained.” This meant that the United States could do more toward bringing him home, despite legal action against him in Russia.
In recent weeks, WNBA players have been working with Griner’s wife, Cherrell, and others, tried to draw attention to their case,
The latest effort, coordinated by letters from groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, coordinated Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Kolas, who worked with Democratic strategist Karen Finney and others. The group, which represents a coalition of constituencies that helped elect Biden, is speaking amid growing frustrations over the pace of the effort to bring Griner home.
“In my understanding, they haven’t initiated negotiations for his release, and so this letter is very powerful because it’s a much needed support to highlight the fact that we are at the stage where you guys should make a deal.” ,” said Cherrell Griner.
“I wish I could say I had a clearer understanding of this,” she said of White House strategy. “They do a lot of talking in code with me.”
The administration, she said, is “debating whether they should initiate talks,” when it has already been determined that his wife was wrongfully detained. “Instead, they are arguing and they are wasting time from my wife’s life.”
White House officials commented after the article was published online, saying, “President Biden is clear about the need to look at all US citizens who have been held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, including Brittany Griner.” The US government continues to act aggressively, using every available means to bring him home.
Administration officials have said Biden’s team is in regular contact with the Griner family and Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Cherrell Griner in May. The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is also in contact with Brittany Griner’s team.
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and former US ambassador to the United Nations, is also working to free Griner and another American in Russia, former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained since 2018.
Still, Cherrell Griner said she was unsure about how much of a priority the White House was giving the matter. He told the Associated Press that he was scheduled to speak to his wife on the phone over the weekend for the first time in nearly four months, but a logistical problem at the US embassy in Moscow stalled plans.
according to AP, the embassy was to facilitate calls between women. But when Brittany Griner called the embassy in the United States to settle with his wife, there was no answer. Brittany Griner’s lawyers said he tried to call the line 11 times while his wife waited in vain for the call, the AP reported.
“I was upset. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherrell Griner told the AP.
This article is originally from . appeared in new York Times,