The United States is now saying lesbian WNBA player Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained in Russia, NPR reported.
The shift in language indicates the United States will work more aggressively to secure her release. The State Department hadn't gone so far in its previous statements about Griner, who was arrested at an airport outside Moscow in February after authorities there reportedly found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Her detention happened days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. There are fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could use Griner as a political prisoner to get something from the United States.
In response to the news about the new designation, National Black Justice Coalition Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York issued a statement that Windy City Times received. She said, "Brittney's status change is an important moment in the movement to bring her home safely and swiftly. It means there is now a two-pronged approach focused on both legal and political strategies.
"It has become clear that Brittney's legal team has acted in good faith to clear her name through Russia's legal system, and that the Russian government has been actively trying to leverage Brittney's detainment for political purposes tied to their war on Ukraine. This is unfortunate, especially because Griner's status as a Black, lesbian, woman leaves her vulnerable to increased discrimination and abuse at the hands of the racist and homophobic Russian government.
"We urge the U.S. government to do all it can to bring her home before she is no longer able to maintain her safety in a nation at war."
A change.org petition, "Secure Brittney Griner's Swift and Safe Return to the U.S.," is at https://www.change.org/p/secure-brittney-griner-s-swift-and-safe-return-to-the-u-s?signed=true%C2%A0.