WNBA star Brittney Griner is believed to be detained by Russian authorities after they allegedly found hash oil on her as she attempted to leave the country. As the eyes of the world are on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the basketball player’s arrest has been shrouded in an added layer of tension.
Griner, a member of the Phoenix Mercury, was playing professionally in Russia during the WNBA offseason. Griner is a seven-time all-star with the Mercury and won a championship with the team in 2014. She is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and won a national championship at Baylor University.
As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict continued, on March 5 the State Department urged all U.S. citizens in the country to leave and also issued a “do not travel” advisory for the country.
Here’s what to know about the arrest.
Why is Brittney Griner being held in Russia?
Griner has spent the past seven offseasons playing in Russia. She was playing for the UMMC Ekaterinburg team this year. His last match was on January 29.
In that, there was nothing unusual about Griner’s situation. Griner was one of the few in Russia in particular. In many situations they are paid more than in the United States. Griner, for example, made $227,900 a year playing in the WNBA, but in Russia she was reportedly paid over $1 million a year. Other WNBA players who competed in Russia this offseason include Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi and Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones.
Saturday, the New York Times reported that Russian officials took Griner into custody after finding a vape pen containing hash oil in her luggage as she passed through security at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. A video released by Russia’s Federal Customs Service appears to show Griner going through security.
The exact date of his arrest is not publicly known. Griner’s agent did not respond to a request for comment.
“We are aware of Brittney Griner’s situation in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said. early in a statement reported by The Associated Press. “As this is an ongoing legal case, we are unable to comment further on the specifics of her case, but we can confirm that, as we strive to bring her home, her mental health and physics remains our main concern.”
Read more: “We are really desperate.” Foreign students, footballers and tourists try to flee Kyiv as Russia continues its attacks
How did the WNBA react?
In a separate statement, the WNBA players’ association said it would “continue to closely monitor” the situation. “Our greatest concern is the safety and well-being of BG,” the WNBPA noted.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, posted a photo on Instagram on Saturday thanking people for their support. She posted another photo on Monday, expressing her sadness that she hadn’t seen or heard from Griner.
“I miss your voice, I miss your presence,” Cherelle Griner said in the post. “There are no words to express this pain. I hurt, we hurt.”
What could happen next?
According to Times, a criminal case was opened against Griner for “large-scale drug transport”. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
It is not known where she is currently being held or what the next steps in the process are.
A petition has been launched online called “Secure Brittney Griner’s Swift and Safe Return to the US”
At first glance, Griner’s detention appears to have little to do with the conflict in Ukraine – drugs are one of the most common reasons US citizens are detailed when traveling abroad – however, the level Tension and concern over the treatment of an American in Russia at this time remains high.