Sharpton Pressures White House For Visit To Brittney Griner in Russian Prison

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday called for the Biden administration to set up a meeting with WNBA star Brittney Griner. The Phoenix Mercury and Olympic standout is imprisoned in Russia and currently on trial.

Griner hand wrote a letter to President Joe Biden that was delivered to the White House Monday. Griner is being held in Russia on drug smuggling charges after authorities there say they found cannabis oil in her luggage.

She was detained in February and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Griner played basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason and was arrested at a Moscow airport.

Sharpton said four months is too long for her detention and he hopes Biden “acts on her pleas to come home.” He said “she deserves to see the United States is doing something for her.”

Griner’s letter urged the president to not “forget about me and other American detainees” held in Russia. Most of the communication stayed private, but excerpts were released by Griner’s representatives.

The basketball star told Biden that as she waits in a Russian prison, she is kept away from the protection and comfort of “my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments.”

Griner admits to being “terrified” that she may never leave that prison. She also told the president that she voted for the first time in 2020, and it was for him.

She expressed that freedom this year has a new meaning for her. The Independence Day celebration for her family normally honors her father, who is a Vietnam veteran.

Griner faces a judicial system that is vastly different from that in the U.S. Over 99% of defendants are found guilty, and even acquittals may be appealed.

The National Security Council acknowledged receiving the letter Monday and said Griner is being unjustly held. Spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the president “has been clear” in his demands that all U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongly detained, including Griner, be released.

Russia denies political reasons for Griner’s imprisonment, and she is far from the first American to run afoul of other nations’ harsh drug penalties. But it’s difficult not to see a political angle to her trial, and it’s not much to ask of the White House to attempt to intervene for a U.S. Olympian.