WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has determined WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the U.S. will more aggressively work to secure her release. At the same time, the legal case against her plays out.
That's according to two U.S. officials who spoke Tuesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In February, Griner was detained at an airport after Russian authorities said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing traces of cannabis oil.
U.S. officials previously stopped short of classifying the Phoenix Mercury player as wrongfully detained.
Her case has been moved to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which is responsible for negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans classified as being wrongfully detained in other countries.
It wasn't known why Griner’s case was suddenly a top priority. Still, some experts suspect it's because some members of Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to get her released immediately.
The WNBA players' union president says it's time for Griner to "come home."
All WNBA teams are set to honor Griner this upcoming season by placing a decal of Griner’s initials, BG, and her No. 42, on their courts.
Also, the WNBA has allowed Griner's team to continue to pay her without it counting against the team’s cap.