Brittney Griner receives new official designation as White House pushes for release

Washington DC - The Biden administration now believes WNBA star Brittney Griner is being "wrongfully detained" in Russia after allegedly being caught with hash oil at the airport.

Brittney Griner was detained in February after Russian authorities allegedly found vape cartridges with hash oil in her luggage.
Brittney Griner was detained in February after Russian authorities allegedly found vape cartridges with hash oil in her luggage.  © REUTERS

The new designation, reported by ESPN on Tuesday, is expected to change the conversation around Griner’s imprisonment, moving the White House to fight more aggressively outside legal channels for her release.

It also frees her teammates and supporters to be vocal after her legal team and wife asked fans to not cause a stir that could make her situation worse.

"Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home," Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, told ESPN.

College football: Player rankings after Week 5
Athletes College football: Player rankings after Week 5

A spokesperson for the State Department confirmed the new designation to the New York Daily News.

"With this determination, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release," the spokesperson said.

Griner (31) was arrested in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow after Russian authorities allegedly found vape cartridges in her luggage. She has not been formally charged but is scheduled for a hearing on May 19.

The White House's change of tack comes days after the release of US Marines veteran Trevor Reed, who was freed from a Russian jail in a prisoner swap for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. Reed, who was convicted of assaulting a Russian cop, was two years into his nine-year sentence.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who was considered crucial in securing Reed’s release and has been working for the same for another American held in Russia, Paul Whelan, is now taking up Griner’s case, according to ESPN.

Cover photo: REUTERS

More on the topic Athletes: