PHOENIX MERCURY

State Department tells Mercury to amplify Brittney Griner’s case

Jun 13, 2022, 3:07 PM
Phoenix Mercury players Diana Taurasi, left, Shey Peddy, middle, and Diamond DeShields, right, wear...

Phoenix Mercury players Diana Taurasi, left, Shey Peddy, middle, and Diamond DeShields, right, wear T-shirts referring to teammate Brittney Griner before a WNBA basketball game against the Las Vegas Aces, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The Phoenix Mercury met with the State Department of the United States on the 116th day of Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia and through statements and a video of star Diana Taurasi expressed positivity after the government asked them to continue amplifying a push to bring Griner home.

State Department officials met Monday with representatives of Griner’s WNBA team about the Mercury star’s monthslong detention in Russia and the Biden administration’s efforts to secure her release.

The meeting involved officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans, but the State Department offered no additional details about what was said or who specifically attended.

From the Mercury’s point of view, the meeting was a positive sign that everything is being done to bring the center back to the United States.

“Once we knew that BG was over there being detained wrongfully, that was a signal to all of us (the U.S. government was prioritizing the case),” Taurasi said in a video interview provided by the Mercury. “Anything that we can do on our side to amplify and to put BG first will be our number one priority.”

Griner was arrested on Feb. 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 Griner as wrongfully detained and transferred oversight of her case to the State Department Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, or SPEHA.

“I’m confident in the State Department and the work that they’re doing” Mercury forward Brianna Turner said in the team’s release. “They encouraged us to keep speaking her name, to keep holding them accountable to bring BG back home as soon as possible.”

The administration has previously said that it’s working to bring Griner and another American, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, home from Russia.

“It was great to hear from the State Department that we should continue to amplify that message and that we should continue to press all those who have any influence or power to help bring BG home,” Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said in the release. “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back home.”

After a meeting with the United States Department of State, the Mercury said the team met with Arizona congressman Greg Stanton and Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is from Griner’s hometown of Houston, Texas.

Jackson Lee held a rally and vigil to push for Griner’s return in the Houston area last week.

Stanton, who also served as Phoenix mayor from 2012-18, said in a Mercury statement that he was “glad for the opportunity to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Brittney’s release.”

He is leading a bipartisan resolution in congress to push for Griner’s release from Russia.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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