Nearly 1,200 Black women urged President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to “make a deal” with Russia to “immediately” bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner in a letter delivered to the White House on Tuesday.
The letter, dated July 4, was signed by many prominent Black women described in the letter as intersectional and intergenerational. The group includes civil rights and faith leaders, athletes and business executives.
Among the letter’s signatories are Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., three state senators and former NAACP president Hazel Dukes. (Joy Reid and Tiffany Cross, both MSNBC hosts, and Amber Ruffin, a Peacock host, also signed the letter.)
The group chastises the Biden administration for not acting quickly enough to negotiate the release of Griner, who was detained in February. Russian authorities said she was in possession of cannabis-derived vape cartridges and charged her with drug smuggling.
“We are concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken to date,” the women write. “We urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly and safely.”
The group alleges Griner is “being used as a political pawn” and is being denied consular access and outside communication while suffering “inhumane conditions.” The letter also claims the State Department recently failed to put Griner in touch with her wife, Cherelle, on their wedding anniversary for their first phone conversation since she was detained. .
The additional pressure comes as Griner sent a handwritten letter to Biden this week, pleading for the administration to not forget about her and other American detainees.
“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,” Griner wrote.
Biden spoke with Cherelle Griner on the phone on Wednesday and read her the draft of the administration’s response letter to Brittney. He told Cherelle he is working to release Brittney and other Americans designated as wrongfully detained by Russian authorities as soon as possible. He said he has directed his national security team to keep in close contact with Griner’s family.
Griner’s trial is expected to take several weeks, and she could face up to 10 years in Russian prison.
“America cannot fail Brittney Griner,” the group wrote.