Feature image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
WNBA All-Star, gold medal Olympian, and very out lesbian Brittney Griner has been arrested by Russian authorities after they found “vape cartridges that contained hashish oil” in her luggage when she arrived at an airport near Moscow. There’s no timeline on the arrest.
According to the Russian Interfax news agency, she was detained in February, and the last time Griner posted to Instagram was February 5th. Griner’s name hasn’t even even been officially released by Russian law enforcement. According to The New York Times, the Russian Federal Customs Service released a statement saying they’d arrested a two-time gold medal-winning Olympic athlete. A law enforcement source identified the player as Brittney Griner to a Russian news agency.
Also from the NYT:
The Customs Service released a video of a traveler at the airport that appeared to be the 31-year-old Griner, wearing a mask and black sweatshirt, going through security. The video showed an individual removing a package from the traveler’s bag. The basketball player was taken into custody while the investigation is ongoing, the officials said.
During the WNBA off-season, Griner, like many other WNBA players, is part of an overseas league to supplement her WNBA income. She plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg as part of the Russian Premiere League. On February 24th, the WNBA reported that they’d been in touch with all players (or their agents) in Russia and would closely monitor Russia’s war on Ukraine and advise their players accordingly. The few WNBA athletes who were playing in Ukraine have already returned home,
“An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia,” The United States Embassy in Moscow warned in a statement on February 27th. “Numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”
As of now, it seems that no news outlet has been able to get a statement from the WNBA, the Phoenix Mercury, or Griner’s agents about what’s happening with her in Russia. We do know that a criminal investigation has been opened and she faces up to ten years in Russian prison if convicted.
I’ll update this post with more about this terrifying and infuriating situation as more information (hopefully) becomes available. In the meantime, I’m praying for her safe return home.
From Autostraddle Editor in Chief, Carmen Phillips:
To be a famous masc Black lesbian being detained in Russia with no details being provided on her whereabouts? I’m speechless, and not doing a good job of this, but I’m praying for Britney this morning and that she’s able to come home to her loved ones safely. https://t.co/TRwPgTteAb
— Carmen Phillips (@carmencitaloves) March 5, 2022
Update: The Phoenix Mercury and WNBA have released statements about Griner:
Mercury: “We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the W.N.B.A. and N.B.A. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
WNBA: “Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
Update: USA basketball has a released statement about Griner:
“USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia. 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.”
Update: Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has a released statement about Griner and requesting privacy as those involved work to bring her home:
“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.”
Update: Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, whose work on racism in the Ukraine/Russian war Carmen has been featuring in the Also.Also.Also, made the news rounds yesterday to share her expertise on what’s happening with Griner. She definitely deserves a follow and will likely be providing vital commentary in the coming days. (Hopefully just days.)
"There is a precedent for this and it does not look good." @ksvarnon speaks to @yasminv about the major concerns surrounding WNBA star Brittney Griner being held in Russian custody and what actions the U.S. can take. pic.twitter.com/46bW4VYriF
— Yasmin Vossoughian Reports (@YasminMSNBC) March 5, 2022
Update: During a press conference Saturday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’ 18th Congressional District in the U.S. House, demanded Griner’s release. Griner is originally from Houston and played college ball at Baylor, in Waco, TX.
Update: Russian state TV has released a photo of Brittney Griner. CNN has the story.
Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. CNN's @RosaFlores has the story. pic.twitter.com/SzB9MSSQfY
— CNN (@CNN) March 8, 2022
Update: Brittney Griner appeared in Russian court today; her detainment has been extended to at least May.
WNBA center Brittney Griner appeared in a Moscow court today, where she reportedly pleaded not guilty (to drug charges). The court extended her detention for another two months, according to @mash_breaking pic.twitter.com/Lm0TPzNYH0
— Mike Eckel (@Mike_Eckel) March 17, 2022