Sharpton presses for visit with Brittney Griner in Russia
The Rev. Al Sharpton is calling on the Biden administration to arrange a meeting for him and other religious leaders with imprisoned WNBA player Brittney Griner.
Sharpton said in a press release on Tuesday that he is deeply worried about Griner’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being after speaking with her wife last week.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and U.S. Olympic gold medalist who plays for a Russian professional team during the WNBA offseason, has been imprisoned in Russia for more than four months since she was arrested on drug charges. Her trial began on Friday.
She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, and fewer than 1 percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted. Acquittals can also be overturned in the country, unlike in the United States.
“She deserves to see the United States is doing something for her, so she can find the strength as this show trial goes on,” Sharpton said. “Brittney’s family also deserves to hear from someone who has met with and spoken to her.”
Griner was arrested shortly before the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the charges are politically motivated on Friday.
Sharpton spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, last week on his radio show, where she asked for the public to help her push for the WNBA star to be returned home. She said federal officials have told her that securing Griner’s release is at the “highest chain of command,” but she has not received details of where negotiations stand.
Griner sent a handwritten letter to President Biden that was delivered on Monday, urging him not to forget about her and other Americans being held abroad. She said she is “terrified I might be here forever.”
Sharpton said he wants Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to set up the meeting to allow him and other religious leaders to pray over Brittney.
“Four months is too long for this to have gone on, and I hope the President acts on her pleas to come home,” he said.