The sources and other officials working on her case did not say what led to the reclassification, or whether there have been talks about getting the Phoenix Mercury player out of detainment. With the "wrongfully detained" label, US officials will no longer wait until Griner's case goes through the Russian legal system and will instead seek negotiations for her release.
"The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained US citizen Brittney Griner," a State Department official told ESPN this week. "With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner's release."
"Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home," the Olympic gold medalist's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in a statement to ESPN Tuesday (May 3).
A source close Griner revealed Monday (May 2) that former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson agreed to work on her case last week. Richardson has worked privately as an international hostage negotiator for years, and experts say Richardson's involvement would be a signal that Griner's case has shifted.
Griner was detained by Russian customs officials in February at an airport outside of Moscow. Authorities claimed Griner was carrying cannabis-containing vape cartridges in her carry-on luggage in an attempt to smuggle the drugs. Griner, like many WNBA players, has played overseas for seven seasons.