WASHINGTON – State Department officials met Monday with members of the Phoenix Mercury about Britney Greiner’s months-long detention in Russia and the Biden administration’s efforts to secure her release.
The State Department confirmed the meeting, which included officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and unjustly detains Americans.
“There’s a lot to do with getting her home safely; they’re working relentlessly,” Mercury star Diana Torassi said after the meeting in a press release from the team. “We’re here to do everything we can to amplify BG and keep it ahead, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that happens in our lives. We want BG to come home as soon as possible; he’s number one on our list.”
Mercury in Washington before Tuesday night’s game against the Mystics. Their meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday lasted for an hour and was held at the team’s hotel.
The administration previously said it was working to bring Greiner and another American corporate security chief, Paul Whelan, home from Russia.
“Knowing the State Department at the highest level, from US President Joe Biden to the team working to return all Americans unjustly detained, gives us a lot of confidence that they are working on it,” Turassi said.
Griner was arrested on February 3. 17 at an airport in Russia after authorities there said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing a cannabis derivative. In May, the State Department reclassified Greiner as an unjustly detainee and transferred oversight of her case to the State Department’s Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, or SPEHA.
“We’re on day 116 since BG was unjustly arrested,” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “It was great to hear from the State Department that we must continue to amplify this message and that we must continue to pressure all those who have any influence or power to help bring BG home. She is our teammate, she is American and we want her to come home. .”
After meeting with the State Department, the players and staff at Mercury nearly met with Democratic Congressman Greg Stanton of Arizona and Democratic Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee of Grener’s hometown of Houston.
“For the team, coaches, and CEOs at Mercury, every day without Britney is for life,” Stanton said. “I was thrilled the opportunity to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Britney’s release.”
Greiner’s teammates and players throughout the league are pushing President Biden on social media to help her get home.
WNBA players were also able to send emails and messages to Griner through an account created by her agent. The emails are printed and delivered sporadically in batches to Griner by her lawyer after they are vetted by Russian officials. Once the lawyers are back in their offices, they will scan any responses from Griner and send them to the US to send to the players.
Josh Winfuss of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.