According to The New York Times and the Russian news agency TASS, Phoenix Mercury centre Brittney Griner is still being held in Russia after the Russian Federal Customs Service claimed it found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. The incident was reported by both of these news outlets.
Officials only said that they detained an American basketball player who had won two gold medals with the United States team, but the customs service did not release a name or specify the date of the detention in its statement. They only said that they detained the player. The player was later revealed to be Griner by TASS. Griner is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a gold medalist from the years 2016 and 2021.
The first reports of Griner’s arrest surfaced in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused a large number of WNBA players to flee their countries of origin.
The following are the most recent details regarding the developing situation.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of smuggling drugs into Russia and given a nine-year prison sentence.
In a case that has raised concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine, American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted of deliberately smuggling drugs into Russia and sentenced to nine years of jail time on Thursday. The case involved the smuggling of drugs into Russia on purpose.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court, and Griner was given a fine of 1 million rubles, which is equivalent to approximately $16,400. She stated that the court took into consideration Griner’s partial admission of guilt, remorse for the act, state of health, and charitable activities when making its decision. The state’s attorney had requested that she be given a prison sentence of nine and a half years.
Why Was Brittney Griner Detained In Russia?
Griner, who plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason, was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport after officials from the customs service said they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Additionally, a video showing an individual at the airport who appears to be Griner going through security checkpoints was published by the customs service.
Within the context of a segment that aired on March 5, Russian state television displayed a photograph of Griner. It is believed that the photograph was taken inside of a Russian police station.
According to The New York Times, a criminal investigation has been opened into the “large-scale transportation of drugs,” the commission of which can result in a sentence of up to ten years in prison in Russia.
What statements have been made regarding Brittney Griner’s arrest by the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury?
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) made the announcement on May 3 that it will display Griner’s initials and her jersey number (No. 42) on the sidelines of all courts that will host WNBA games this season. In order to accommodate the Mercury’s need to carry a replacement player, the league provided them with roster and salary cap relief. Griner can look forward to maintaining her current level of compensation.
According to a statement released by the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, “As we begin the 2022 season, we are keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community.” We are grateful for the support that the community has shown BG and her family during this extremely difficult time and we continue to work toward bringing Brittney home.
The announcement that was made by the WNBA on May 3 is the most recent in a string of public statements that have been made available since the initial reporting of her detainment earlier this spring.
WNBA statement (March 5)
“Brittney Griner has the full support of the WNBA, and our top priority is for her to get back to the United States as quickly and safely as possible.”
Statement from the Phoenix and the Mercury (March 5)
“We are aware of the situation involving Brittney Griner in Russia, and we are continuing to keep a close eye on it. We maintain regular communication with her family, the agency that represents her, as well as the WNBA and NBA. Brittney is loved and supported by us, and at this time our primary concern is for her wellbeing, both physically and mentally, as well as the security of her return home.”
WNBPA statement (March 5)
“The situation in Russia with regard to one of our members, Brittney Griner, is something that we are aware of. The protection and well-being of BG is our number one priority. We want to express our love and support to you on behalf of The 144. We are going to continue to keep a close eye on the situation, and we are looking forward to her coming back to the United States.”
USA Basketball statement (March 5)
“The legal predicament that Brittney Griner is in in Russia is something that USA Basketball is aware of and is keeping a close eye on. During her long tenure with USA Basketball, Brittney has always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism, and her safety and well-being are our primary concerns.”
Are there any other WNBA players in Russia?
The WNBA players, with the exception of Griner, have all left Russia and Ukraine, according to a spokesperson for the league who spoke to The New York Times on March 5.
Why do WNBA players compete in Russia?
Many WNBA players, including some of the league’s most prominent stars, have chosen to play in leagues outside of the United States during the offseason because the pay in those leagues is significantly higher than in the WNBA.
Breanna Stewart, a forward for the Seattle Storm who has also played for UMMC Ekaterinburg, makes approximately $1.5 million per season overseas, which is significantly more than the WNBA supermax salary of $228,094 per year. After agreeing to a one-year contract with the Storm, Stewart voiced her concerns regarding recent amendments to the collective bargaining agreement that require players to give the WNBA higher priority than other leagues.
According to a statement that was made by Stewart in February, “Prioritization is, like, the biggest topic of conversation in the WNBA for me, especially in the next couple of years.” “To be able to play overseas at UMMC Ekaterinburg, where basketball is highly valued, where we are treated extremely well, and where we have the opportunity to make a lot of money, this is something that I find very difficult. The prioritisation will result in the loss of one of my sources of income, and I will not receive any compensation in its place.
“That is something that requires a certain amount of investigation and consideration. I do not have a very good explanation for what is going to take place. However, I believe that it is going to affect a much larger number of players in the WNBA than people think it is going to affect right now.”
When will Brittney Griner be released?
The proceedings regarding Griner’s trial came to an end on August 4 when a judge in Russia found her guilty of drug possession and smuggling and handed down a sentence of nine years in prison to her. According to The Associated Press, the prosecutors had requested that Griner be given a prison sentence of nine and a half years when they brought their case before the court.
Legal experts viewed the verdict as a mere formality because the length of time she will be held in custody will ultimately be decided by negotiations between the United States and Russia regarding the swapping of prisoners.
The following statement was issued by Vice President Joe Biden in response to the verdict:
Brittney Griner, a citizen of the United States, was given a prison sentence today that serves as yet another reminder of what the rest of the world already knows: Russia is holding Brittney in violation of international law. This is completely unacceptable, and I am calling on Russia to free her without delay so that she can be with her wife and other loved ones, as well as her teammates and friends. My administration will keep working around the clock and investigate every possible lead in an effort to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home to safety as quickly as possible.
Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States, disclosed on July 27 during a press conference that the Biden administration, which believes that Griner is being wrongfully detained, “put a substantial proposal on the table” in order to facilitate the release of Griner and Whelan, a former Marine who has been held in Russia for three and a half years. Whelan has been held in Russia since 2014.
“Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal,” Blinken said, adding that he plans to follow up with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal,” Blinken said.
According to CNN’s reporting, the Biden administration reportedly made an offer to trade Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is currently serving a sentence of 25 years in prison.
The comments made by Blinken appeared on the same day that Griner was called to the stand to testify in her trial. During the time that she was being detained at the airport, she claimed that an interpreter only translated a small portion of what was being said to her. She also claimed that after she was initially detained, she was not given an explanation of her rights or access to a lawyer. She said that this was the case.
According to The Associated Press, Griner stated, “Nothing was ever explained to me in any kind of comprehensive manner.” “There were a lot of short words, such as’sign here,’ and at that point, I felt as though I was being held against my will. As a result, I contacted my family as well as my agent and asked for legal representation to help me with this situation.
According to Reuters, Griner entered a guilty plea to the drug charges he was facing during a hearing on July 7 in a Russian court. She stated before the judge that she had no intention of committing a crime. According to CNN, which cited information obtained from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Griner stated that she had hurriedly packed her belongings.
“Your honour, I would like to enter a guilty plea. However, there was no malicious intent. Because I didn’t want to get in trouble with the law, “Griner said, per Reuters.
According to ESPN, Griner has admitted her guilt as part of a strategy devised by her legal team in order to increase her chances of being released from prison in exchange for another inmate.