WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained in Russia at an airport over vape cartridges. According to the New York Times, the Russian Federal Customs Service revealed on Saturday (March 5) that its officials had taken her into custody in February at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. The vape cartridges, which allegedly contained hashish oil, were found in her luggage.
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia,” shared Griner’s wife, Cherelle, on Instagram. “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.”
“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the W.N.B.A. and N.B.A.,” confirmed Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Cola.
According to ESPN, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday (March 6) the United States will “provide every possible assistance” during a joint news conference with Moldova president Maia Sandu. “Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we, of course, stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia.”
He continued” We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia,” adding. “We’re doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected.”
According to the sports news outlet, Griner played basketball in Russia professionally during the WNBA off-season. She has played nine seasons with the Phoenix Mercury and won gold medals twice for the Olympic basketball team in 2016 and 2021.
“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,” said Team USA in a statement shared to Twitter.
An online petition launched by Journalist Tamryn Spruill on Change.org has called for Griner’s immediate release.
“Professional athletes never know when their careers will come to an end. Thus, they must compete today with tomorrow’s financial security in mind. For WNBA players, that means playing abroad, while NBA rookies who haven’t played a professional game yet are handed salaries many-times higher that what title-winning, All-Star designated WNBA veterans could ever hope for,” Spruill explained oni the landing page.
Griner’s arrest comes just as tensions between Russia and Ukraine evolved into a violent war. According to the Associated Press, the U.N. human rights office said Monday (March 7) that it had confirmed the deaths of 406 civilians and wounding of 801 others through the end of Sunday although they believe the numbers to be higher.