Q&A: When could WNBA star Brittney Griner be released by Russia?

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham wears a t-shirt in support of Brittney Griner before a game against the Las Vegas Aces on May 6.

(Darryl Webb/Associated Press)

Once the US government officially classified Griner as wrongfully detained, Colas and his team focused on a public and private strategy to rally support for the star’s return home. Griner’s WNBA teammates and numerous NBA players, including Lakers star LeBron James, joined celebrities and musicians wearing clothes and posting messages supporting Griner.

His supporters, including his wife, have given numerous interviews to local and national media and a wide range of groups have endorsed their efforts. Both the WNBA and the NBA have repeatedly called for Griner’s release, adding her initials to the WNBA Courts and making her an honorary star to draw more attention to her detention.

In a letter sent to the White House on Wednesday, 44 organizations — including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Urban League — called on Biden to reach a deal for Griner’s release.

On Friday, the House passed Rep. Greg Stanton’s resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release Griner and supporting the US government’s efforts to secure his release.

Along with letters of support from high-profile figures, clothes and pins with “We are BG” that keep Griner in the spotlight, and social media campaigns, supporters have started a petition to help demonstrate how many people want to see Griner released.

The strategy is comparable to past efforts to free wrongfully incarcerated individuals from US prisons and swing support for Raphael Warnock’s successful run for the US Senate in Georgia.

The Petition Calling for Griner’s Release, which has over 275,000 signatures, can be found on WeAreBG.org. The website also has information about Griner’s case to help explain what it means to be wrongfully detained.

“People need to be aware of this. Do you want your child, your sister, your friend, your family to be taken as a political pawn? Forget being a celebrity. Most people are normal people. Normal people with no resources or teams or advisors,” Colas said. “It should matter because most wrongfully detained people are not celebrities and it could happen to anyone if we don’t act and prioritize all wrongfully detained Americans.”

Colas said the goal was to rack up at least half a million signatures on the petition and send it to the White House to show strong support for Griner coming home.

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