July 21, 2022

Van Hollen, Wyden, Cornyn, Colleagues Call on Russia to Release Brittney Griner From Wrongful Detention

Bipartisan Senate resolution urges U.S. government to press for WNBA player’s release, supports all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) in introducing a bipartisan Senate resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release U.S. citizen Brittney Griner from her wrongful detention, and urging the U.S. government in all its interactions with the Russian government to press for the WNBA player’s release.

In addition to demanding action to end the 5-month-long wrongful detention of Griner, the resolution also expresses support for U.S. citizen Paul Whelan and all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.

The Senate resolution is a companion to a similar resolution already passed by the House. In addition to Van Hollen, Wyden, and Cornyn, other co-sponsors of the Senate resolution are U.S. Senators Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.),  Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  

The entire Senate resolution is here and below.

Calling for the immediate release of Brittney Griner, a citizen of the United States, who was wrongfully detained by the Government of the Russian Federation in February 2022.

Whereas United States citizen Brittney Griner is a Women’s National Basketball Association (referred to in this preamble as ‘‘WNBA’’) player;

Whereas Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle, are residents of Phoenix, Arizona, and are well respected leaders in that community;

Whereas Brittney Griner was raised in Houston, Texas, and many of her family members live in Texas;

Whereas after a prolific collegiate career at Baylor University, Brittney Griner was selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, where she has played her entire WNBA career;

Whereas during her WNBA career, Brittney Griner has been named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year twice and has been a WNBA All Star 7 times;

Whereas Brittney Griner represented the United States as a member of the United States Women’s National Basketball Team at 2 Olympics, where she helped Team USA win gold medals in each appearance;

Whereas Brittney Griner is an international figure who has played 7 seasons of professional basketball in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off season;

Whereas Brittney Griner is a renowned leader in the LGBTQ+ community;

Whereas Brittney Griner has made a difference in the lives of many Arizonans, including through her annual ‘‘BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive’’, which has provided shoes to nearly 2,000 people who are experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix area;

Whereas the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Rescue Mission are continuing this important effort to clothe the homeless in Brittney Griner’s absence;

Whereas Brittney Griner was presumably detained by Russian authorities at Sheremetyevo Alexander S. Pushkin International Airport in Khimki, Russia, on February 17, 2022, and accused of carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil;

Whereas Russian authorities opened a criminal case against Brittney Griner for the alleged transportation of drugs, a crime which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years;

Whereas, on March 17, 2022, a Russian court denied a request for bail and house arrest for Brittney Griner, and has since extended her detention until July 2, 2022;

Whereas the Department of State has determined that Brittney Griner is ‘‘wrongfully detained’’; and

Whereas the Biden Administration has pledged to return Brittney Griner back to the United States as soon as possible: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) calls on the Government of the Russian Federation to immediately release Brittney Griner;

(2) urges the United States, in all interactions with the Government of the Russian Federation, to raise the case of Brittney Griner and to press for her release;

(3) expresses the continued support for Paul Whelan and all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation;

(4) urges the Government of the Russian Federation to provide consular access to Brittney Griner while she remains in detention;

(5) urges the Government of the Russian Federation to respect the human rights of Brittney Griner; and

(6) expresses support to the family of Brittney Griner and a commitment to bringing her home.