WNBA star Brittney Griner’s prolonged detention raises concerns about how much longer she will be kept away from her wife and loved ones. After nearly three months of detention, there’s little information about her potential release.
But advocates say the people must continue to demand Griner’s release. Launched shortly after news of Griner’s detention spread, Black Feminist Future created the #BringBritneyHome campaign. The group has hoped to keep pressure on officials and raise awareness about her case.
Paris Hatcher, executive director for Black Feminist Future, told NewsOne it was important for the organization to show support for Griner and mobilize in demanding her release. She was dismayed by the news of Griner’s extended detention.
“I don’t think words can express how extremely disappointed we are and just so deeply frustrated that the Russian court has extended Brittney Griner’s detention,” Hatcher said. “There is just like one picture of her. Her head is down and covered. So we have no sense of how she’s doing.”
As reported by ESPN, Griner’s detention was extended an additional 30 days. Her trial date hasn’t been set, and the delay could mean anything.
Dani Gilbert, an expert in state-sponsored hostage-taking and professor of military and strategic studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy, told ESPN that the extended detention reminds us how challenging these cases can be. Gilbert told the outlet these types of cases are rarely easy to resolve.
“We honestly don’t know if this is good or bad news,” Gilbert said to ESPN. “It could mean buying time to work out a swift deal for her release, or it could mean more complications put on the table.”
Griner’s ongoing detention comes after U.S. officials finally announced their belief that the women’s basketball player has been wrongfully detained. Hatcher said her group has believed the detention was unlawful from the beginning. She also pointed to the various intersections of Griner’s identity, adding to the situation’s complexity.
“As a Black queer woman, she faces even greater discrimination within the Russian context, and so we feel like it’s just an imperative that she should be brought home,” Hatcher said. “One day is too long for her to be away from her family.”
A few weeks ago, the Biden administration negotiated the release of an ex-marine who allegedly was involved in an altercation with a Russian police officer. Reed had been detained in Russia since 2019 after being arrested for public intoxication.
While many remain hopeful that Griner could be the next to come home, there’s little information about her legal process. Sports Illustrated noted that U.S. diplomats spoke with her during her recent hearing. According to the outlet, Russian state news claims there could be a prisoner swap with Griner being traded for a U.S.-held prisoner.
Hatcher said she took heat for launching the campaign but felt it was essential to raise awareness around Griner’s case. And she remains firm in a public campaign focused on the WNBA player as a part of ensuring her safe return sooner than later.
“We do not believe that silence is the answer,” Hatcher said. “Now, folks are realizing, ‘Oh, this is an unlawful detention.’ I think people were working from a place of fear.”
And while Griner’s pretrial detention is happening in an international context, Hatcher sees some connection with how Black and queer people are treated in the criminal system at home.
“The drug war is global,” Hatcher said. “Remember, she was detained allegedly for having some type of marijuana products. And so, we know the kind of surveillance that the drug war has set up not just from the U.S. but globally. We also know the conditions of pretrial detention and that the harshest punishments are enacted on Black folks.
A member-based organization, Hatcher explained that Black Feminist Future has met with representatives and has a petition that approximately 4,000 people have signed. The membership has remained engaged with keeping attention on Griner’s case.
Ultimately for Hatcher, Griner’s case is another example of global “systems of power and control embedded in white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia.”
“We can’t escape it, no matter where we are,” Hatcher said. “And that truly is the lived reality of so many Black people, especially Black women, girls and gender-expansive people in this world.”
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