One of the biggest stories of this year’s WNBA season has been a legend who hasn’t seen a second of playing time.
Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia has loomed over every game and continued to be a major story during the WNBA Finals. Signs reading “Free Brittney” have dotted arenas throughout the league, and her fellow players have pushed to keep her in the news throughout the season, with gestures like lining up during the All Star Game in matching Griner jerseys.
On Friday, President Joe Biden met with Griner’s wife Cherelle for the first time in person since the eight-time WNBA All Star was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February for possession of hasish oil, which she had been prescribed in the United States.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had previously spoken with Cherelle Griner on the phone in July. A month later, a Russian court sentenced Brittney Griner to nine years in prison.
During their in-person discussion, Biden reportedly emphasized that the United States is working through all available channels to secure her release from Russia and inquired about Cherelle and her extended family’s mental health during one of the most painful experiences a partner could endure.
That same afternoon, Biden also met with the family of US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia after being convicted of spying.
After the meeting, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told the Washington press corps that the President “appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long.”
According to Reuters, the US has been engaged in discussions with Russia about a possible prisoner swap involving arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25 year sentence for conspiracy to kill Americans and provide support to a terrorist organization.
“A substantial offer is on the table and they should accept it,” Jean-Pierre said.
In the meantime, Griner’s status remains at the top of mind for many fans, players, and coaches throughout the WNBA and in the greater sports world. Biden’s in-person meeting with Cherelle was scheduled in part to demonstrate that his administration is making her safe release a priority as well.
“We’re going to continue to do everything that we can, working tirelessly every day, to make sure that we get them home,” Jean-Pierre said.