WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia on suspicion of illegally bringing drugs into the country after she was searched at the airport and found with hash oil in her luggage, according to Russian news agency Tass. This story is just breaking NOW and with the horrors occurring with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the United States’ tenuous relationship with Russia – it is a very frightening situation for Griner, her family and U.S. teammates from the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
The report states that Griner was stopped by customs control at Sheremetyevo International Airport in February upon arrival in Moscow from New York when a service dog reacted to the presence of drugs. The two-time Olympic gold medalist’s luggage was searched and run through X-ray equipment, and vape cartridges of liquid cannabis oil were found.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the Phoenix Mercury said in a statement. “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
The timing of the arrest was unclear, beyond that it happened last month. Meanwhile, the State Department issued an advisory not to travel to Russia in response to the “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and the possible “harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials.” The department added that U.S. citizens should leave Russia immediately and that the embassy had “limited ability to assist U.S. citizens.”
All other WNBA players are out of Russia and Ukraine, according to a WNBA spokesperson. Several prominent WNBA stars are on the rosters of Russian teams, including Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot of our Chicago Sky team, Jonquel Jones, Natasha Howard and Arike Ogunbowale.
“USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia,” the organization said in a statement. “Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and well-being are our primary concerns.” The WNBA said in its own statement, “Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
Griner is listed on the roster for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia and has played on the team for seven seasons. She is a seven-time WNBA all-star after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 and is one of the world’s most recognizable women’s basketball players.
Sadly, many WNBA players spend the off-season playing overseas to supplement WNBA salaries that are not competitive with those of their male counterparts. Griner is set to have a base salary of $227,900 with the Mercury for the 2022 season.
“We are aware of the situation in Russia concerning one of our members, Brittney Griner,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. “Our utmost concern is BG’s safety and well-being. On behalf of The 144, we send our love and support. We will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”
As mentioned, this is a breaking story and it was noted that if Griner is convicted of a “drug” charge, she could face 10 years in a Russian prison. The fear is that with the ongoing invasion into Ukraine and the limitations of anyone from the U.S. being able to directly assist her, this could be a worst case scenario for the WNBA star.
I will provide updates when more news becomes available on this breaking story…
Photo courtesy – WNBA Phoenix Mercury
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