The U.S. government is on its Johnny-come-lately steez in regards to WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been locked up in a Moscow jail over alleged vape cartridges containing hashish oil for the better part of four months now. On Tuesday, the State Department announced that it officially considers Griner “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is among the highest priorities of the U.S government,” the department said in a statement, according to ESPN. “The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner…The U.S. government will continue to undertake efforts to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner.”
How nice of the U.S. government to finally join the rest of the decent and empathetic world in declaring that Griner shouldn’t be locked up for more than 70 days with no sign of freedom in sight, all because she might have had illegal vape cartridges in her possession.
So what does this mean for Griner, exactly?
The change in official designation means that the U.S. government will no longer wait for Griner’s case to play out through the Russian legal system and will seek to negotiate her return. It also means that Griner’s fellow WNBA players and supporters in Congress will be told they have the family’s blessing to bring as much attention to her case as they wish.
“We feel really good about it,” a source close to Griner told ESPN. “But we also know it can drag out, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high.”
The State Department didn’t say what prompted its new attitude, but it might be because it came under new scrutiny after the U.S. successfully negotiated the return of ex-Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, a former Marine imprisoned in Moscow after being convicted in 2019 of assaulting a Russian police officer. The U.S. is also in the process of negotiating the release of other white Americans who were convicted in Russia of far more severe crimes than possession of a little hashish oil.
“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 Tuesday.
More from ESPN:
A source close to Griner also confirmed Monday that former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who has worked privately for years as an international hostage negotiator, agreed to work on Griner’s case last week. Experts have said Richardson’s involvement would be a crucial sign that her case has moved into a new realm.
Until now, Griner’s personal team had followed State Department advice to keep a low profile so as not to make her a more valuable asset to Vladimir Putin’s government.
Until this past weekend, her case had been handled by the consular office, which monitors the cases of any American being held abroad without necessarily intervening. State Department officials notified appropriate congressional committees of the change Monday.
It almost sounds like Griner got left twisting in the wind for 75 days waiting for the U.S. to get its sh** together, get off this Aaron Burr “Wait For It” nonsense and classify her in a way that at least sets her freedom in motion.
Well, better late than never, I suppose. Sheesh!