The effort to get WNBA champion Brittney Griner out of Russian detainment continues as the 2022 WNBA season draws near. During her opening statement at the WNBA Draft, commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned how the league is working to get Griner back into the United States. Engelbert noted how Griner is in an “unimaginable situation.”
“We’re trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration, just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can,” Engelbert said.
The league has been getting advice and daily assistance on managing the issue. In March, the league, the Phoenix Mercury and the government decided to be silent about the issue and “push more privately behind the scenes,” according to Engelbert. However, some WNBA players have since broke their silence.
“I know we’re all frustrated, but we do need to be patient,” Engelbert said. “I know the players have been amazing at following the advice that they’re getting and we’re getting in order not to jeopardize her safety in any way.”
The WNBA is helping the Phoenix Mercury in Griner’s absence. The league and the team will work to assist Griner’s philanthropy event called the BG Heart & Sole Shoe Drive, which is a shoe drive for people living with homelessness.
“That will take place in all 12 WNBA markets,” Engelbert said. “The activations we will do are intended to remind us of [Griner’s] spirit of giving, and do the work that she’d be doing if she were here, and the work she will join us in when she returns.”
The Mercury plans to pay Griner her entire 2022 salary of $227,900. The WNBA will give Phoenix salary cap “relief” because of Griner’s absence.
Engelbert did not give any detailed information on how the league is helping Griner return home. The White House had no updates on Griner as of Monday. The White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that it is “not typically constructive” to talk about Americans who are detained abroad.
“It can, historically, impact our ability to bring them home,” Psaki said.
Griner was detained in a Moscow airport on February 17 after Russian Authority mentioned they found vape cartridges in her luggage that contained cannabis oil.
Griner is a seven-time WNBA All Star, two-time Gold medalist and an NCAA champion.