March 5, 2022
Russian officials detain Brittney Griner
All other WNBA players have been evacuated from Ukraine and Russia
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia after officials found her traveling with hashish oil, The New York Times reported on Saturday. According to a WNBA spokesperson, all other W players have been evacuated from Ukraine and Russia.
The Russian Federal Customs Service released news that a U.S. women’s team player’s luggage had contained vape cartridges with cannabis oil. The report did not release the player’s name or date of arrest, although it includes video. Russian news agency TASS identified the player as Griner, who has been playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg this offseason.
The punishment for drug charges such as these in Russia is up to 10 years in prison.
One can only speculate how the arrest relates to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine and ensuing American sanctions. The New York Times stated that this could be a leverage tool for Russian officials.
An outpouring of support for Griner has erupted in the hours since the news broke.
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the WNBA said in a statement.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA,” said the Phoenix Mercury. “We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
“We are aware of the situation in Russia concerning one of our members, Brittney Griner. Our utmost concern is BG’s safety and well-being. On behalf of The 144, we send our support and love,” the WNBPA said.
USA Basketball also issued a statement: “USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia. Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns.”
Griner is coming off the best WNBA season of her career, when she averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and came in second place in MVP voting. She led the Mercury to their first Finals appearance since 2014 and is slated for another successful season alongside the Mercury’s recent free agency acquisitions.