Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury WNBA player and Houston native, was detained and taken into custody in Moscow, Russia in the month of February. So far, her whereabouts and the specific date of her arrest is unknown.
The Russian Federal Customs Service (RFCS) explained that the detainment occurred after they found vaping cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage.
The RFCS statement said, “As a U.S. citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage. The customs inspection of the hand luggage being carried by the U.S. citizen confirmed the presence of vapes with specifically-smelling liquid, and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance.”
RFCS also stated that a criminal case was opened and if convicted of “the large-scare transportation of drugs,” Griner, could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
Griner was competing in Russia as a part of the international basketball league which is common practice in the off-season for WNBA players as it pays more than the WNBA.
While there have been accusations of Russia targeting American citizens and detaining/convicting them on fabricated charges, it is particularly dangerous for an American to be stuck in Russia amid the ongoing Ukraine Invasion. It is unclear whether Griner’s detainment is a ploy to gain leverage against the United States as Russia begins to feel the global economic ramifications of their decision to invade Ukraine. Family, friends, and fans are hopeful for Griner’s immediate release, so this detainment doesn’t develop into a “prisoner of war” situation.
Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said, “We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”
The WNBA, Phoenix Mercury, WNBPA, and USA Basketball have all released statements in support of Griner’s safe and swift return home.
WNBA Statement – “Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
Phoenix Mercury 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. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
WNBPA Statement – “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 love and support. We will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”
USA Basketball 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 well-being are our primary concerns.”
The timeframe of Griner’s release from custody is unclear as the investigation is active and ongoing.