Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody for over a month. On Wednesday, the United States had been given consular access to Griner.
“A consular official was able to visit Brittney Griner today and found her to be in good condition,” said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Jennifer Palmer. “We will continue to do everything we can to see to it that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal.”
While she waited for U.S. Consul, Griner has been in correspondence with people close to her situation.
Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of a Russian state-backed prison monitoring group has checked on Griner, who is in a pretrial detention facility near Moscow. However, those types of groups rarely critique the Russian government on prisoner treatment.
“Her physical condition is fine, she’s holding up fine, and I’d even say that she is fairly calm and isn’t anxious,” Kalugina said.
The two-time Olympic Champion made little to no complaints other than the beds not being able to accommodate her 6’9” height. The facility allows her one hour a day in the exercise yard. Griner requested to be put on house arrest, but her request was denied.
Griner’s lawyers have also visited her and sent her care packages that include personal items and food. On Friday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement demanding access to her.
“We are closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team. We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is,” it stated. “We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access.”
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va) mentioned how Russia desires to use Griner as a “negotiating chip.”
“I think there’s no doubt that her detention, and then this continuation of the imprisonment, is all to try to make her a hostage and a part of this chess game,” Kaine said.
Russian State News has reported that Griner’s pretrial detention will last until May 19. The U.S. Government has not yet put Griner’s case under the category of wrongfully detained. Cases in the “wrongfully detained” category are given extra government attention. It also puts the case under the auspices of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department.
Two-time WNBA champion Jewell Loyd has spoken out on Griner’s detainment. Loyd is an ambassador for the basketball skills and development app 94FeetofGame. The app recently launched the “Future of Basketball is Female” campaign in partnership with DJ Khaled and the We The Best Foundation in honor of Women’s History Month.
“Obviously, you want her back safe,” Loyd said about Griner. “But overseas is overseas and that’s what the focus of this campaign also is — to (show) how much women have to go through and not having the choice to stay home.”
Most WNBA players also compete overseas because the clubs pay more than WNBA franchises. Griner has competed in Russia for seven years.
Since news of her detainment has surfaced, there has been mixed views on whether the news should be publicized or not. Initially, the WNBA, NBA, and Griner’s family kept the issue private in fear of Russia reacting negatively towards her due to publicity.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert noted how their silence is a strategy.
“We’re in daily contact with her agent, her family, her legal representation,” the commissioner added. “So it’s everybody coordinating on this and obviously we don’t want to do or say anything that is going to jeopardize her safety.”
Griner was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service after they found cannabis oil in her luggage after she arrived in Moscow from New York.