Q&A: When can WNBA star Britney Griner be released by Russia?

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham wears a Britney Greener T-shirt.

Phoenix Mercury defenseman Sophie Cunningham wears a Britney Griner jersey before a game against the Las Vegas Aces on May 6.

(Darryl Webb/Associated Press)

Once the US government officially classified Griner as illegally detained, Colas and her team focused on a public and private strategy to mobilize support for the star’s return home. Griner’s WNBA teammates and numerous NBA players, including Lakers star LeBron James, joined celebrities and musicians dressed up and posting messages in support of Griner.

Her supporters, including her wife, gave extensive interviews to local and national media, and a wide range of groups supported their efforts. The WNBA and NBA have repeatedly called for Greener’s release, adding her initials to the WNBA courts and making her an honorary star to draw further attention to her detention.

In a letter sent to the White House on Wednesday, 44 organizations, including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Urban League, urged Biden to negotiate Griner’s release.

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Greg Stanton’s resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release Griner and supporting the US government’s efforts to free her.

In addition to letters of support from well-known figures, “We are BG” clothing and badges that keep Griner in the spotlight, and social media campaigns, supporters have created a petition to demonstrate how many people want Griner to be released.

This strategy is comparable to past efforts to free illegal prisoners from US prisons and provide support for Raphael Warnock’s successful run for the US Senate in Georgia.

petition calling for the release of Griner, which has over 275,000 signatures can be found at WaAreBG.org. The website also includes information about the Griner case to help explain what it means to be wrongfully detained.

“People need to know about this. Do you want your child, your sister, your friend, your family to be taken as a political pawn? Forget about being a celebrity. Most people are normal people. Normal people without resources and teams and advisers,” Kolas said. “It should matter because the majority of those wrongfully detained are not celebrities and this can happen to anyone if we don’t act and give priority to all Americans wrongfully detained.”

Colas said the goal is to get at least half a million signatures on a petition and send it to the White House to show strong support for Griner’s return home.