A photo of Brittney Griner, who is reportedly being detained in Russia on drug smuggling charges, was aired on Russian state TV Saturday and released on Tuesday. The photo, which is not dated, shows Griner standing in front of a wall holding a sheet of paper.
The WNBA, Phoenix Mercury and USA Basketball all issued statements of support for Brittney Griner on Saturday, the day the news of her detainment broke.
According to The New York Times, Russian news agency TASS reported that Griner, a seven-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is being detained. A law enforcement source confirmed Griner’s identity to TASS. Griner, 31, has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years.
According to the Times, the Russian Federal Customs Service said its officials had detained an American basketball player after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. The Customs Service also said in a statement published by the Times that the player had won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., but it did not release the player’s name at the time.
Officials said the player was taken into custody while the investigation is ongoing, according to the Times. It’s unclear exactly when Griner was detained, but Russian authorities said the incident at the airport happened in February, the Times reported.
“USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia,” it said in a statement. “Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and well-being are our primary concerns.”
The Mercury put out a similar statement, saying, “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 WNBA and NBA. 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 WNBA also put out a statement saying Griner has its full support, while the WNBA players’ association acknowledged the situation and emphasized the concern for her safety and well-being.
According to a league spokesperson, all WNBA players other than Griner are out of Russia and Ukraine.
Tensions have increased between Russia and the United States following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month. The U.S. State Department issued a statement Saturday urging Americans to immediately leave Russia.
On Sunday, when asked about Griner, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will “provide every possible assistance” to citizens detained in foreign countries, according to ESPN.
“There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point,” Blinken said. “We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia. We’re doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected.”
In an Instagram post on Monday, Griner’s wife Cherrelle said there are “no words to express this pain” as the family worries about her.
“My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by,” Cherrelle Griner wrote. “… I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”
(Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)