UPDATED 8:11 AM PT – Friday, April 15, 2022
The State Department responded to a letter by two GOP congressmen who called on Joe Biden to do more to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner. The letter, written by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), was sent to the President in March.
The congressmen called on Biden to send a message to the Kremlin that America will not tolerate Vladimir Putin using citizens as “political pawns” amid its invasion of Ukraine. In response, the State Department said one of its top priorities is to help Americans who are incarcerated or detained abroad.
The letter read in part:
Today, we write to you regarding the unfortunate case of Women’s National Basketball Association (W.N.B.A) star Center Brittney Griner who remains in a Russian prison for violating the country’s illegal substance laws. Every American––regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic status––must adhere to the rules of every sovereign nation. While we are not here to call balls and strikes on Russian law, we are very concerned about Mrs. Griner’s detention under the current and rapidly deteriorating circumstances in Russia and Eastern Europe.
In March, spokesman Ned Price said they are working closely with Griner’s legal team. The WNBA player was arrested in February at a Moscow airport for allegedly having cannabis oil in her luggage.
“The consular officer who visited with Brittney Griner was able to verify that she is doing as well as can be expected under these very difficult circumstances,” stated Price. “We’ll continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly and that her rights are respected.”
Congressmen Donalds and Owens said the State Department has been sluggish, adding they must do more to facilitate the release of every American detained in Russia.