WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia: report

Phoenix Mercury says it is in constant contact with Brittney Griner's family

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Brittney Griner, one of the most celebrated women’s basketball players of recent times, has been detained near a Moscow airport after authorities there said they confiscated hash oil in her luggage, according to media reports.

Russian Customs officials did not identify who was taken into custody, but the news agency TASS said it was Griner, according to a The New York Times reports.

The WNBA All-Star was detained last month, the Associated Press reports.

The Phoenix Mercury said in a tweet Saturday morning that it is aware of the event, in contact with her family and closely monitoring the situation.

Brittney Griner thegrio.com
Brittney Griner (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physcial and mental health, and her safe return home,” the organization said.

The WNBA team drafted Griner as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013.

The customs service, in a statement, said it has opened a criminal investigation that could result in 10 years in prison for large-scale transportation of drugs, The Times reported.

She’s in the custody of Russian officials. 

The arrest comes as tensions between the West and Russia rise over the war it instigated in Ukraine. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin likened sanctions against his country to “an act of war,” Reuters reported.

Russia has, in the past, detained Americans during periods of tension between the two countries. Just this week, American officials warned that Russia could start detaining Americans still in the country. The State Department has urged Americans still in Russia to leave.

“This is what will happen: They’ll get arrested on trumped-up charges,” Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer who oversaw Russia and Europe operations, told NBC News. “There’s always a concern that Americans doing business in Russia are caught up in the bilateral tensions and can be unjustly imprisoned — sometimes for long periods of time.”

The 6-foot-8 Griner, 31, averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game for the Mercury in the 2020 season. She’s a seven-time league All-Star and has won two gold medals (2012 and 2016) for the U.S. women’s basketball team.

It’s common for WNBA players to play overseas during the offseason, where they can supplement their income with often higher salaries. Griner averaged 13 points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of action for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a FIBA team that plays out of Russia, and has played there for several years.

“The few WNBA players who were competing this off-season in Ukraine are no longer in the country,” the WNBA said Thursday in a statement as reported by ESPN. “The league has also been in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

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