On Friday, the pretrial detention of two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion Brittney Griner was extended by one month by a court near Moscow. Griner made her first public appearance since being detained in February during the hearing at a court in Khimki.
Phoenix Mercury center Griner will now be held in detention until at least June 18. The WNBA released a statement, regarding the news as “not unexpected.”
“The WNBA continues to work with the U.S. government to get BG home safely and as soon as possible,” the professional basketball league stated. Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov believes that the extension is a sign that her case will come to trial soon.
Many prominent figures in woman’s basketball have expressed their grievances on Griner’s case on social media, using hashtags #WeAreBG and #FreeBrittneyGriner.
“Free BG til it’s backwards !!” Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson tweeted.
“85 days TOO LONG. #WeAreBG,” said Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike in reference to the time Griner has spent detained. Ogwumike spent four years competing in Russia for the Dynamo Kursk women’s basketball club.
“It has been 85 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse, we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG” stated Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart.
During the first two game days for the Mercury this season, Griner’s wife Cherelle posted videos of her on Instagram. Cherelle recently earned a Juris Doctorate from North Carolina Central University.
Griner’s teammate Brianna Turner reminisced on her kind acts to those who are less fortunate in light of the news.
“On road trips BG would always save her leftover food and give it to a homeless person,” Turner Tweeted. “So of course with her on my mind I thought to do the same today. Sometimes a free meal can make a persons day. If possible, do something for a stranger today.”
A U.S. Embassy official talked with Griner during her hearing and reported that she “is doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances.”
On May 3, the State Department classified Griner as wrongfully detained. This put her case in the office of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy of Hostage Affairs (SPEHA). Hostage negotiator Roger Carstens and the State Department decided to classify her as wrongfully detained, according to press Secretary Jen Psaki.
“We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas,” a State Department official said.
Griner’s family and supporters, along with the WNBA and the Biden Administration have been working to get her out of Russian detainment. The Richardson Center, an organization that privately advocates on behalf of families of detainees and hostages, is also assisting the Griner family.
Several Russian news sources reported that Russia wants to trade Griner in a prisoner swap with Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker. Also known as the “Merchant of Death,” Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2008 for the delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, helping a terrorist organization, and conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.
American government officials were skeptical about Russia’s reporting, noting that it is a tactic to pressure the United States government.
The U.S. and Russia committed a prisoner swap last month between former Marine Trevor Reed and Russian pilot Konstanin Yaroshenko. The U.S. claimed that Reed was wrongfully detained; he had been in Russia for three years. Yaroshenko was convicted of drug trafficking.
Former Atlanta Dream forward Adaora Elonu expressed how she is “extremely worried” for Griner. Like the seven-time WNBA All Star, Elonu has played pro basketball in Russia.
“I didn’t feel unsafe. I felt as if there was not much happening in that country,” Elonu said. “I know there was a lot going on outside of the country. But as far as when I was in Russia, we weren’t getting much news about what was happening.”
Griner will be paid her full salary for this season. To honor her, all 12 WNBA teams have her initials and jersey number 42 on their hardwood.
Griner has been detained since February when Russian authorities allegedly discovered cannabis oil in her luggage. They accused her of smuggling a significant amount of narcotics.