WNBA chief gives update on ‘complex’ Brittney Griner detention: ‘We know she’s safe’

Brittney Griner look up during a basketball match

American basketball player Brittney Griner is “safe” after being detained in Russia, a Women’s National Basketball Association chief said.

The seven-time All-Star centre for the Phoenix Mercury was detained on drug charges by Russia’s Federal Customs Service at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow in February. Her plight only came to light in March.

Griner’s detention aggravated an already tense standoff between the US and Russia over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday (11 April), WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert stressed that Griner is “safe” even in the “unimaginable situation” she is in, Yahoo Sports reported.

“This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in. She continues to have our full support,” she said before Monday’s WNBA draft.

“Certainly, we’re trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration. Just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”

“We know she’s safe but we want to get her home. So it’s a very complex situation right now and we’re following the advice,” Engelbert continued.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not talking to someone that has views on what we’re doing and how we’re moving forward.”

She added: “Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority and while we are facing an extraordinarily complex challenge, there is strength in community, especially the WNBA.”

Brittney Griner, 31, was stopped by sniffer dogs at the airport, prompting customs officials to search her carry-on luggage and find vape cartridges containing hashish oil.

Hashish oil is a marijuana concentrate packed with a high concentration of the psychoactive chemical THC. Officials opened up a criminal case as a result, with her hefty drug charges carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

A sign reading ‘Free Brittney Griner’ at the Cal State Fullerton Titans vs Long Beach State tournament. (Sam Morris/Getty Images)

US embassy officials confirmed in March that they had met with the two-time Olympic gold medallist and she is in “good condition”.

“We were able to check on her condition, we will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly,” a US state department spokesman told CNN.

A judge extended her custody by two months until at least 19 May, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Griner has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for years, a standard thing for athletes who often pad out their income during the WNBA off-season by playing for overseas teams.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia,” Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner wrote on Instagram in March.

“We continue to work on getting my wife home safely.”