There is growing hope that a deal will be struck between Russian and US officials in the coming weeks that will see imprisoned NBA star Britney Greiner return home.
the main points:
- NBA player Britney Grenier was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia last month
- Greiner was arrested when a small amount of cannabis oil was found in her e-cigarette packs.
- US President Joe Biden met with Greener’s partner in an attempt to help her return home
Greener’s teammates will be watching developments as they begin their FIBA Basketball World Cup defense in Sydney on Thursday, a title she helped them win four years ago.
Greiner flew to Russia in February where she was contracted to play during the off-season WNBA season, but was detained when a small amount of cannabis oil was found in her e-cigarette packages.
A week after her arrest, Russia invaded Ukraine further deteriorating bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington.
Greiner’s detention was extended three times before trial began in July, and a nine-year prison sentence was issued in August.
Team USA player Ariel Atkins, who made her debut in the Basketball World Cup, said that Greiner was at the forefront of the minds of the players who participated in this tournament with the goal of winning the eleventh world title.
“GB, her soul, it transcends everything that happens,” Atkins told ABC.
“It’s definitely a tough situation and it’s hard to talk about.
“This season in the WNBA has been really difficult without her.
“It’s a huge part of women’s basketball in the United States and it’s definitely very tough but at the end of the day we know we represent it.
“We want her to know that we love her and [we’ll do] Anything we can do as players to help her get home. We want her home.”
Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for Bringing Our Families Home (BOFH), told The Ticket that one of his clients was released after the intervention of the former US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, who happened to be back in Moscow for meetings last week. .
The former New Mexico governor established the Richardson Center, which specializes in negotiating the release of hostages and prisoners held by hostile regimes or criminal organizations.
“He went back to Russia as he did to my client, Trevor Reed, in February,” Franks said, referring to a US Marine who was arrested in Russia in 2019.
“It’s a great thing for Britney Greiner.
“He is very good at this hostage business, he has connections … He was able to give us firsthand knowledge and information that the Russians were willing to cut a deal for my client.
“[Mr Reed’s] Then the parents returned to Washington at the end of March … They protested in front of the White House, protested on their way to the Oval Office, and after 27 days their son returned home. ”
US President Joe Biden late Friday held meetings in the Oval Office with Grenner’s wife Cheryl Grenner and a relative of US Marines Paul Whelan, who is also detained in Russia.
“The President convened the meetings to reaffirm his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Britney … safely home,” White House Press Secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Griner’s position is closely watched by most of the US FIBA World Cup team.
Australian Opal star Lauren Jackson previously played in the Russian Premier League, and Opals coach Sandy Brundello worked with Grenier when she coached the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
“It really affected all of us. I’ve coached Britney for eight years and she’s part of my family,” Brundello told The Ticket.
“It’s so sad, I still get emotional because I can’t believe this is happening and she’s still there [in Russia].
We hope to keep ordering [US] The government to continue to do their best to bring her home… She is in our prayers and we hope she will be back soon.”
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zacklis said the sport’s governing body played no role in Grenier’s release, but shared Brundello’s feelings.
“FIBA has no role, that is outside of its jurisdiction…this is a legal issue…also with a number of political or geopolitical factors at play.
“We of course want to see one of the best players in the world, a very good character, back on the pitch as soon as possible.
“There are legal procedures in place, and I also think political procedures are in place to make sure that sooner rather than later she will catch basketball in her hands and perform at the highest level. We are talking about one of the best players in the world.”
Greiner’s case helped raise awareness of many other Americans designated by the US government as “unjustly detained”.
Jonathan Franks said the Grenier case forever changed the way these situations would be handled.
“The Britney affair changed everything. Families became more powerful, and we saw my client’s parents, Trevor Reed, able to ride a Britney-made thermocouple — intense media attention at a time when our government was asking Britney’s camp to shut up.
“Once Trevor was released, he empowered families here in America who have been conducting a very successful lobbying campaign for the past two months trying to persuade the US government to go make deals to bring their loved ones home.”
The United States faces Belgium in their first group game at the Sydney Superdome at 11:30 am on Thursday.
Australia plays their opening match against France at 8:30 pm on Thursday.