NBA Rumor: Brittney Griner Arrest

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State Department officials met Monday with representatives of Brittney Griner’s WNBA team about the Phoenix Mercury star’s monthslong detention in Russia and the Biden administration’s efforts to secure her release. The State Department confirmed the meeting, which involved officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans, but offered no additional details about what was said or who specifically attended.

Before Game 1 of the Finals, Silver announced that the NBA would be working with the U.S. government to try to “expedite” her case to bring her home as soon as possible. Silver explained Wednesday how the NBA got involved with Griner’s case. “Well, actually, what spurred us, you used the words ‘wrongfully detained,’ and so that is an official designation used by the U.S. government,” Silver said. “Initially, when she was detained, even though we all knew what was going on, we were told by the U.S. government to keep it a little bit more as a low-profile issue I think because they were hoping that Russia frankly wouldn’t see her as such a high-value asset, in which they would be looking to get something in return for her.”


How are you taking the Griner situation? Kristi Tollver: Heavy heart. That’s my buddy. We played together on that team in Russia for four years. So, I’m very familiar with the area. Scary, scary situation. I feel hopeful that she will be released soon as we all are. But I just hope that she’s OK, just mentally, physically, spiritually, whatever. She’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever been around. She’s a big kid. She has a great heart. It’s very unfortunate that she’s in that situation. Very scary situation. When she comes back, she’s going to be ready to be around the team and be ready to play. She’s going to need that. Whatever support she is going to need, we’re going to do it. That’s the homey right there.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that he is working “side by side” with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to try to bring Brittney Griner home. Silver, speaking to ESPN’s Malika Andrews in a televised interview from Chicago prior to the NBA draft lottery, said his league was following the advice of experts when it did not take an aggressive approach during the early stages of Griner’s detention in Russia. “We’ve been in touch with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” Silver said. “Our No. 1 priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the wife of detained American Brittney Griner on Saturday as the WNBA star’s imprisonment in Russia continues. According to a senior State Department official, the top US diplomat told Cherelle Griner that her wife’s release is a top priority for the department and has his full attention. Blinken said the State Department is working on the case day and night, and that Cherelle Griner should not to hesitate to reach out if there’s anything she is not getting.

Brittney Griner will remain in custody in Russia for at least another month … a judge just denied her request for house arrest, forcing her to stay in jail for another 30 days. The 31-year-old WNBA superstar appeared in a Russian courtroom on Friday morning with the hopes of getting out of jail … but her attorney told the Associated Press that did not happen. The attorney, Alexander Boikov, did say, though, that because of the short nature of the custody extension … he did believe a trial in Griner’s case might be coming soon. Griner wore an orange sweatshirt to Friday’s hearing, and left the courtroom with a hood up over her head. In photos of her leaving her appearance, you can see she was wearing cuffs on her wrists.

U.S. officials have shifted supervision of her case to a State Department section — the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — that is focused on negotiating for the release of hostages and other Americans classified as being wrongfully detained in other countries. A consular officer did visit in March. “Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home,” said Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas.

The release of Trevor R. Reed, a former Marine, as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia on Wednesday brought fresh attention to the cases of other Americans who are still detained in Russia, including the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner and another former Marine, Paul Whelan. In a briefing to reporters on Wednesday, American officials said that the administration remained focused on the release of Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan. But some observers noticed that in a statement after Mr. Reed’s release, President Biden had mentioned Mr. Whelan but not Ms. Griner.

Cherelle T. Griner, Ms. Griner’s wife, posted on Instagram on Wednesday that her heart was “overflowing with joy” for the Reed family. She added, “I do know the pain of having your loved one detained in a foreign country.” Mr. Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison in Russia on espionage charges, which he has denied. On Wednesday, Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Mr. Whelan, wrote on Twitter, “It’s amazing to see hostages come home, but oh so very hard on those left behind.”

Brittney Griner arrested in Russia on drug charges

WNBA star Brittney Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in February in Russia on drug smuggling charges and could be facing 5-10 years in prison in the country, per Russian news outlet Interfax. Griner was spending the offseason playing in the Euroleague and was heading to Moscow from New York last month before officials found vape cartridges in her luggage, which are illegal in Russia. A drug-sniffing dog ultimately found cannabis oil, aka weed, in her bag and later identified her as a WNBA player. There has been no indication that Brittany Griner has been released.

The 31-year-old hasn’t posted on Instagram since February 5th, which is concerning in itself. The Mercury have yet to comment on the situation, but it must be extremely scary for Griner, who is stuck in a foreign country in custody. Griner has actually been playing in the WNBA offseason in Russia for Ekaterinburg since 2015 without running into any issues. Here is the statement from Russian officials: “As a U.S. citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage,” the Russian Federal Customs Service said in a statement. “The customs inspection of the hand luggage being carried by the U.S. citizen confirmed the presence of vapes with specifically-smelling liquid, and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance.”

The Customs Service released a video of a traveler at the airport who appeared to be Griner, wearing a mask and black sweatshirt, going through security. The video showed an individual removing a package from the traveler’s bag. According to the statement, a criminal case has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars in Russia. The basketball player was taken into custody while the investigation was ongoing, the officials said.

In a statement, the Mercury said: “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.” The W.N.B.A. said in a statement that Griner “has the W.N.B.A.’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
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