Seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner is being held in Russian custody, according to a report from the New York Times on Saturday morning.
Griner was allegedly trying to travel with hashish oil in her luggage, a common vape cartridge made from cannabis, while at a Moscow airport last month, thus being detained in Russia amid its invasion and war with Ukraine. According to sports journalist Kate Fagan, Griner has been in custody for around three weeks.
Griner’s arrest occurred after a search of her bags uncovered the cartridges. The charge could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, all to relax with a little ganja. Russia’s customs service identified the person arrested with the oil as an American female basketball player, but did not reveal Griner’s identity and did not specify the date of her arrest. Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, neither denied nor confirmed the reports of the former Baylor standout being arrested.
“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,” Kagawa Colas told the Associated Press on Saturday. “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.”
Griner, a high-profile American overseas during a time of heightened international tension, could be viewed as a pawn in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, opposed by the U.S. and NATO.
Griner has spent her international career in Russia since 2014, playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg, earning over $1 million per season. That’s more than quadruple her yearly WNBA salary. Griner last played for UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29.
The WNBA confirmed to the Associated Press that Griner is the lone league player still in Russia or Ukraine of the more than a dozen who spend the offseason playing professionally in those countries. Other notable players who apply their trade in Eastern Europe are reigning league MVP Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot, and Allie Quigley.
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement to the AP.
On Saturday, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, stating that all U.S. citizens should depart the country immediately, for reasons including “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and “the Embassy’s limited ability to assist” American citizens currently in Russia. The 2022 WNBA season is slated to start May 6.
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