In the nearly 10 months she spent in Russian prison, Brittney Griner’s communication with the people close to her was limited to letters and journal entries that she would write by hand, then turn over to her attorneys to digitally scan and deliver.
Lindsay Kagawa Colas keeps a file thick with those letters.
Sitting in her home office in Portland’s Northwest Hills on Friday, Colas pulled out a sheet of unlined paper filled with Griner’s neat handwriting, written shortly after Griner was convicted by a Russian court of drug smuggling.
Colas examined the letter and began to read select lines.
“Dang this sucks … Nine years but I was ready for it. … They really do as they want here.”
Colas, Griner’s longtime agent, shook her head slightly, struck by the weight of the words all over again.
“I’ve learned so much here from the women on how bad it really is. … I got more time than people that murdered their husbands, and drug dealers.”
It was dispatches like this one over the past year that reminded Colas of what her friend and client faced as she worked behind the scenes to help secure Griner’s release.
Colas was an important conduit throughout the ordeal, coordinating with Russian attorneys and government officials. She ran point on a task force within her agency, the Wasserman Media Group, and was a source of support for Griner’s wife, Cherelle. When Cherelle was invited to a meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office in September, Colas accompanied her.
And on Dec. 9, when Griner returned to the United States after being the subject of a high-stakes prisoner swap between nuclear superpowers, Colas was among those on the tarmac of a San Antonio military base to greet her.
“I think I’m still processing that these 10 months have resolved in this way,” Colas said.
While Griner was locked up in Russia, much of the work to secure her release was being done in Portland. Colas is originally from the Bay Area, but moved to Portland in 2011 when she married her husband, Andrew.
She has long been one of the most prominent forces in women’s basketball and represents many of the game’s biggest stars. Diana Taurasi was her first client.
But starting with a phone call in the early hours of Feb. 17 from a colleague who told her that Griner had been detained in Moscow, Colas transformed into a pivotal figure in a geopolitical crisis.
“She kind of went into full command central mode,” said Andrew Colas. “And from that moment on, it was her figuring out every human being she needed to know to make sure that she could get Brittney home.”
Colas, who is the mother to sons Drew, 6, and 19-month-old Remi, described the last year as a “steady burn of stress” as she immersed herself in the world of hostage diplomacy and political imprisonment.
She is used to solving problems for her clients, but they don’t usually play out on a global scale.
“My job is to be really good at figuring out who to pull in to help people make…
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