Griner, 31, is a championship-winning player with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and plays off-season for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Russian Federal Customs said an American was transporting hash oil at Sheremetyevo Airport. The Russian Interfax News Agency quoted a statement from customs, which did not identify the traveler by name:
“While a US citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo airport on arrival from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs Dog Department discovered the possible presence of narcotics in the accompanying luggage,” the statement said.
“The customs inspection of the cabin baggage carried by the US citizen confirmed the presence of vapes containing specific-smelling liquid, and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), a narcotic substance.”
A member of the US House Armed Services Committee said it will be “very difficult” to get Griner out of Russia.
“Our diplomatic relations with Russia are non-existent at this time,” Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California told DailyExpertNews on Monday.
“Perhaps during the various negotiations that can take place, she can be one of the solutions. I do not know.’
He also noted that “Russia has some very, very strict LGBT rules and laws” — although it’s not clear whether those rules and laws could affect Griner’s case.
Hundreds of Petitions for Griner’s Release
Journalist Tamryn Spruill, who reports on women’s basketball, started the online petition on Saturday.
“Griner is a beloved global citizen who has used her platform to help others since joining the WNBA,” Spruill wrote on the petition’s webpage.
Griner was in Russia for work, playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she helped the team to the fifth EuroLeague Women’s Championship in 2021.
Spruill explained why many female professional basketball players in the US work abroad. “Like many athletes competing in the WNBA, Griner plays abroad outside of the WNBA season because her salary is exponentially higher in other countries,” Spruill wrote.
“For WNBA players, that means playing abroad, while NBA rookies who haven’t played a professional game yet receive a salary many times what title-winning All-Star-designated WNBA veterans could ever hope for.” the petition said. †
“These realities are not the fault of the players. They just want to get their value paid just like their male counterparts, and they don’t deserve to get caught up in geopolitical turmoil to do that.”
An uncertain future
On Saturday, she thanked supporters in a post and asked for privacy.
“I understand that many of you have come to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details,” wrote Cherelle Griner. “Please honor our privacy as we continue to work to get my wife home safely.”
But Griner’s fate remains unclear.
A criminal case has been opened against the arrested American citizen, Interfax reported, citing Russian customs.
A spokesman for the US State Department said the agency is “aware of reports of a US citizen arrested in Moscow”.
“Whenever a US citizen is arrested abroad, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services,” the spokesperson told DailyExpertNews on Saturday.
DailyExpertNews has reached out to Griner’s representative for comment.
Her high school basketball coach, Debbie Jackson, remembers Griner as a determined and determined athlete.
But Jackson told DailyExpertNews she fears Griner’s case will be used for political ends.
“My biggest fear is that … she will become a political pawn,” Jackson said.
Played in Russia for years
Griner has played for the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2015 during the WNBA offseason. She averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in five games this season.
Griner is also a two-time medalist at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championship with Team USA.
USA Basketball, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the Mercury and the WNBA players’ union publicly shared their concerns about Griner.
USA Basketball, the governing body for sports in the United States, said it “knows and closely monitors Brittney Griner’s legal situation in Russia. Brittney has always treated herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and well-being are our top priority.”
The WNBA said Griner has its “full support”, adding that her top priority is “her speedy and safe return to the United States.”
The Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it was “aware of the situation in Russia regarding one of our members, Brittney Griner”.
“Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of BG,” the WNBPA said. “We will continue to monitor her closely and look forward to her return to the US.”
The Phoenix Mercury said it is “closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia” as they “remain in constant contact with her family, her agency, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and right now Our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health and her safe return home.”
DailyExpertNews’s Rosa Flores and Lisa France contributed to this report.