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After being detained in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport, Brittney Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year is still being detained in a Russian jail.
The Russian Federal Customs Service discovered vape cartridges with the marijuana concentrate hashish oil in Griner’s luggage.
According to The New York Times, she is being investigated for “large-scale drug transit,” which can result in a sentence of up to ten years in prison in Russia. In early March, the Phoenix Mercury, Griner’s WNBA team, and WNBPA expressed their support.
“We are aware of and closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the Phoenix Mercury stated in an official statement. “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.”
Fans, teammates, and the WNBA have been vocal about getting Griner home days and weeks since she was arrested.
NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted, “We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together,” in response to her 105-day stay in detainment.
The WNBA has remained supportive of Griner after three months of detention.
Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, spoke about the matter on Good Morning America on May 25th.
She claims the two haven’t spoken in over 100 days since her detained wife’s phone was removed from her immediately after she was arrested. In the intervening time, they had “sporadically” exchanged letters..”
Cherelle called on President Biden to help bring Brittney home.
“I just keep hearing that, you know, he has the power,” she said. “She’s a political pawn. So, if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”
The Biden administration said last month that Griner, 31, is being held illegally.
During this time, the US government has rallied to Griner’s defense, proclaiming her “wrongfully held” on May 3rd and requesting the help of Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the UN with extensive experience as an international hostage negotiator.
“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department spokesperson reported to ESPN.
“With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”
With Griner’s new categorization, the US government can begin negotiating her return right away rather than waiting until her Russian trial is over.
Griner has received hundreds of emails and messages from players throughout the league, according to an Associated Press report from June 2. Griner’s email was not made public, but it was sent to the WNBA Players’ Union members via text message.
As of June 2nd, the 31-year-old can write to her loved ones via email.
However, the emails that Griner receives are screened before she can respond to them.
If the Phoenix Mercury player wants to respond, she must write her response on paper, and her lawyers will photograph her written response as she doesn’t have access to the email account.
If Griner doesn’t have any paper to write her response, she must dictate her response.
When Amanda Zahui B. of the Los Angeles Sparks sent an email to the Phoenix Mercury center a few months ago, she never expected to hear back.
“When she responded to my second letter it blew me away,” Zahui B. said. “I was like she responded!! In my third letter, I was like ‘hey best friend, we are officially best friends now.’”
Zahui B. added, “she jokes in her letters. I don’t know how she does it with what she’s going through. She’s an amazing soul. She brings light in a situation like this. I don’t think a lot of people could manage to do that.”
Her custody was prolonged again in May, this time until at least the middle of June.