Russian authorities arrested Brittney Griner in February on charges she possessed cannabis oil. File Photo by Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons
July 6 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone to Brittney Griner's wife Wednesday about the administration's efforts to release the WNBA star from detention in Russia, the White House announced.
A statement from the White House said Biden spoke with Cherelle Griner "to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible." Biden also read Cherelle Griner a draft of a letter he plans to send to Brittney Griner later Wednesday.
"The president offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney's family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home," the statement said.
The White House said Brittney Griner, 31, was "wrongfully detained" in "intolerable conditions."
Brittney Griner wrote a letter to Biden on Monday asking for the U.S. government's assistance.
"As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I'm terrified I might be here forever," she wrote.
"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home."
Russian authorities arrested Brittney Griner in February after they allegedly found cannabis oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial for possession began Friday. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Brittney Griner plays for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and during the off-season had traveled to Russia to play for a team there. Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard decried Brittney Griner's treatment and efforts to secure her release, saying Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James would be treated better.
"If it was LeBron, he'd be home, right?" Nygaard said while talking to reporters Monday. "It's a statement about the value of women. It's a statement about the value of a Black person. It's a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that's what hurts a little more."
Fellow Mercury player Diana Taurasi also called on the U.S. government to step up to assist Brittney Griner.
"We're expecting our U.S. government to do everything and anything possible to get 'BG' home as quick as possible," Taurasi told Axios.
"I mean, it's been over 130 days of her sitting in a Russian prison and we expect our government to make sure she's safe and to make sure she gets home as soon as possible."