WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner has been arrested in Russia after customs officials reportedly detected cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport three weeks ago.
Now, her wife, Cherelle Griner, is desperately trying to get her back home as fear grows that paranoid, war-loving Russian president Vladimir Putin may use the WNBA star as a “high-profile hostage” and a valuable bargaining chip. More inside…
Three weeks later and we’re just finding out WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was detained and then arrested in Russia as she made her way through customs. And the timing couldn’t be worse as the world is in crisis mode as Russia invades Ukraine and we all teeter on the edge of WWIII.
According to The New York Times, Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time Women’s National Basketball Association All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury basketball team, was arrested in Russia after customs officials detected cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia last month at a Moscow airport after a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges. Footage released Saturday shows the WNBA star going through security at a Moscow airport, and her luggage being searched. pic.twitter.com/Tuubab8Oko
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 6, 2022
Security footage (seen above) shows Brittany going through airport security before someone – who appears to be a customs employee – started going through her luggage.
A report from Russian news agency TASS identified the American woman who was arrested on drug charges as 31-year-old Brittney Griner, upon arriving from New York in February. A criminal case has been opened and filed under “large-scale transportation of drugs.” Such charges carry a sentence of 5-10 years in a Russian prison.
Britney Griner getting hemmed up in Russia is extra fucked up because the only reason she has to play in Russia is because the WNBA pays $20 per hour
— Chris Paul George Hill Harper Lee Marvin Harrison (@actionpollock) March 5, 2022
THE ONLY REASON BRITNEY GRINER WAS IN RUSSIA WAS BECAUSE THE WNBA DOESN’T PAY THEIR ATHLETES NEARLY ENOUGH AND THAT SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN.
— Blake Dobyns (@BlakeDobyns) March 5, 2022
During the WNBA’s offseason, Brittney plays in Russia to supplement her salary from the WNBA. Several WNBA players were scrambling to book flights to get out of Russia following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The Washington Post reported WNBA stars Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, Jonquel Jones, Natasha Howard and Arike Ogunbowale fled the country.
Cherelle Griner – Brittney’s wife – took to Instagram to thank everyone who has reached out about her wife’s safe return from Russia. She asked that fans honor their privacy as she desperately works on getting the two-time Olympic gold medal winner back home safely.
”Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life. I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely. Thank you!,” she wrote.
Evelyn Farkas – a former top Pentagon official – told Yahoo Sports that Russia & Putin may want Griner as a “high-profile hostage” who could serve as a valuable bargaining chip. It’s not a far fetched thought knowing Putin’s usual motives of operation.
“If we want her out of jail, Russia is going to have some terms,” said Farkas, who served as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine from 2012-15. “It could be a prisoner swap. They also could use it as an implicit threat or blackmail to get us to do something or not do something. Either way, they find it useful.”
On Saturday, the State Department issued a Level 4 advisory NOT to travel to Russia, citing possible “harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials.” Brittney has been sitting behind bars for three weeks now. You can read more about the advisory here.
Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee – who represents Brittney’s hometown of Houston – held a press conference Saturday where she said she has spoken with the State Department in an effort to get the WNBA star released.
”We know that there were some issues dealing with vape cartridges and other items but let me be very clear," Congresswoman Jackson Lee said. "Brittney Griner is a United States citizen, she was a guest in Russia…and I will be demanding her release.”
Peep the clip above.
The WNBA released a statement regarding Brittney’s arrest:
”USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia,” the WNBA said in a statement. ‘Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns."
Folks are worried about Brittney’s safety overseas, especially since she’s an openly gay, black woman and Russia is widely perceived as an anti-LGBTQ+ country.
A Black queer woman has been held in Russia for almost a month. This is scary as hell. It’s unfortunate that Brittney Griner has become a major pawn in world leaders’ quest for domination. https://t.co/r21BE6U4mv
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 5, 2022
Praying for Brittney Griner’s safety and her rights. An incredibly scary situation.
Heartbreaking BG has been in there almost a month and we’re just now really finding out. We need to get her home.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) March 5, 2022
Had this news come out before & it just now made it to the TL? I feel like this is some wild news not to know about for a month!
— Reagan Gomez (@ReaganGomez) March 5, 2022
I can’t believe Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody for 3 weeks and the news is just now breaking here. What a nightmare scenario. I cannot even imagine what she must be feeling rn.
— roxane gay (@rgay) March 5, 2022
Terrified for Brittney Griner.
— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) March 5, 2022
Yo @wnba you really gotta start paying your players livable wages. No reason in hell Brittney Griner supposed to even be in Russia right now.
— Mrs. George Russell (@ghostbaejae) March 5, 2022
I hate to say this, but we are not going to see Brittney Griner for awhile. Whether she had vape pens or not, this is a power play by Russia, and expect more of this as this war w Ukraine goes on.
— ProfB (@AntheaButler) March 5, 2022
It taking three weeks for Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia to hit the news here is absurd and horrifying in a way that’s difficult to comprehend.
Russia has some of the most anti-LGBTQ laws among major nations.
It cannot be overstated the danger she’s in right now.
— Charlotte Clymer (@cmclymer) March 5, 2022
It’s a travesty that Brittney Griner has been in jail in Russia for 3 weeks and we are just now finding out. It’s not a coincidence she is in jail over a vape pen, while Russia is under heavy sanctions from the US for invading Ukraine and trying to start WWIII.
Get her home!
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) March 5, 2022
A extremely terrfying situation. We’re keeping our fingers crossed she’s able to be released and returned to her family and friends here in the States unharmed.
Photo: Keeton Gale/Shutterstock