Biden issues EO aimed at hostage-taking amid Brittney Griner’s arrest

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on June 27, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will sign an executive order known as “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home,” which takes aim at hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of U.S. nationals.

“This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not just to the issues generally but to the families in particular and it has been informed by the government’s regular engagements with them,” said a senior Biden administration official, per CNBC, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The move comes amid WNBA star Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention in Russia. In February, Griner was arrested in a Moscow area airport for alleged possession of hashish oil. The Phoenix Mercury star has since pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court, facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Griner penned an open letter to President Biden in early July, making a direct plea for assistance from the administration. The President and Vice President Kamala Harris have both spoken with Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, assuring her of their commitment to ensuring the WNBA star’s safe return.

Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBA Players Association, spoke of the league and players’ support of Griner during a Monday appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. She told the Comedy Central host that initially, players were told the best way to help Griner was to remain quiet, but since the U.S. deemed Griner wrongfully detained, the strategy has shifted.

“When we learned that the State Department had classified BG as wrongfully detained, when we heard from Cherelle Griner — BG’s wife — that she needed our help, we heard that through her team, it was go time for my members because this is an issue about sanctity of sport,” Jackson told Noah.

Jackson hopes the entire sports community will step up and speak out on Griner’s detention while calling for her release.

“Quite frankly, Trevor, what this country needs is a rallying cry. And that’s what ‘We Are BG’ is all about. It’s a rallying cry,” Jackson said. “We need a win, so we need to stand with this president. We need him to do whatever it takes to bring BG home.”

Griner’s trial in front of a Russian court continues on July 26.