The Brittney Griner saga continues as The Biden administration has determined that the women’s basketball star is being wrongfully detained by the Russian government. The shift in classification means the United States will work more aggressively to secure her release due to the case now being handled by the U.S. Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. This particular State Department specializes in negotiating for the release of hostages who are being wrongfully detained in other countries.
Griner is one of the biggest stars in the WNBA. Ever since her arrival in 2013, the 6 foot 9 center has been a dominant force in the middle for the Phoenix Mercury. Despite the fact that Griner is one of the biggest and brightest stars in the Women’s National Basketball Association, her compensation doesn’t match her star power. A large percentage of WNBA athletes play basketball overseas in the off-season in order to earn extra income. Competing overseas gives Griner and other WNBA stars the opportunity to make five times the total income they receive for playing basketball in the United States. The Russian invasion of the Ukraine occurred near the end of February. Brittney Griner was traveling to report to work at her second job approximately one week prior.
The 31-year-old baller has been a member of the EuroLeague
team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014. After her plane landed at the Sheremetyevo airport outside of Moscow, Griner experienced a delay when she made an attempt to walk through customs. A sniffer dog led authorities to search Griner’s carry-on luggage. She was arrested for allegedly having cannabis vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil. If convicted on drug smuggling charges, Griner faces five to 10 years in Russian prison.
Brittney Griner’s arrest took place in mid-February, but no proof of her status was provided until March 5 when her booking photo was shown during a Russian State TV broadcast. The photo was reportedly taken at a Russian police station. The basketball star has been detained for approximately ten weeks and counting. A Russian court granted the petition of the investigation and extended the term of Griner’s detention until May 19. The WNBA is about to embark on a new season without one the most dominant player’s in league history.
A product of Houston, Texas, Brittney Griner was recognized as the nation’s No.1 high school women’s basketball player back in 2009. After graduating from high school, she went on to play college basketball at Baylor University. She led the Lady Bears to a 40-0 undefeated season, and the 2012 NCAA Division I National Championship. Griner turned pro in 2013, and the Phoenix Mercury selected her with the first overall pick of the draft. Since entering the WNBA, Griner has pieced together a very impressive resume. In addition to helping the Phoenix Mercury win the WNBA Championship in 2014, Griner is a two-time WNBA scoring champ, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a member of the WNBA 25th Anniversary Team.
She’s also the first WNBA player to dunk the basketball on a consistent basis. In addition to all of her WNBA accolades, Griner played for the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team on multiple occasions. She is a two-time gold medal winner, earning the honor in 2016 and 2021. Brittney Griner has excelled at every challenge she faced on the basketball court. Now she is currently facing one of the biggest challenges of her life as she remains a prisoner on foreign soil. Griner’s status reclassification symbolizes the U.S. taking a step in the right direction. It marks a change in strategy, and a significant push for Griner’s safe return to the United States.