More politicians are voicing their concerns about the welfare of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is currently being held in Russia on drug charges.
U.S. congressman Colin Allred (D-Texas) spoke Wednesday about Griner, a fellow Baylor alum. Allred played football at Baylor from 2001-05 and Griner was a member of the women’s basketball team from 2009-13.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has previously expressed his supportfor Griner, as has U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham.
According to Allred, Griner was detained in Russia on Feb. 17. She was on her way back to the country to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the EuroLeague powerhouse that rosters multiple WNBA players during the WNBA offseason.
Griner was detained after Russian officials reportedly found hashish oil in her luggage. According to a statement released by the Russian Federal Customs Service and obtained by the New York Times, a criminal case has been opened into the “large-scale transportation of drugs.” In the case of a conviction, the crime carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
“My office has been in touch with the State Department, and we’re working with them to see what is the best way forward,” said Allred, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it’s also happening in the context of really strained relations. I do think that it’s really unusual that we’ve not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services.”
Allred added that the Russian criminal justice system is different from that in the U.S., calling it “opaque.”
“We don’t have a lot of insight into where she is in that process right now,” he said. “But she’s been held for three weeks now, and that’s extremely concerning.”
Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, American embassy personnel have been drawn back in Moscow. The State Department has also issued warnings to all American citizens in Russia, urging them to leave. Despite the circumstances, Allred said the U.S. government would continue to advocate for Griner.
“I’m sure her lawyer in Russia is working through the process,” he said. “But every day for anyone being held, particularly being held overseas, is a lifetime. I recognize that for her friends and family, this must be incredibly difficult time. And for her, I’m sure the uncertainty about what’s happening is probably just terrible. And so, hopefully, whatever happens, we can get this moving quickly and get her out.”