( ESPN.com )
WNBA player Brittney Griner is being detained in Russia after customs officials said they found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow in February, according to a report in the New York Times on Saturday.
The Russian Federal Customs Service on Saturday alleged it searched luggage believed to belong to Griner and found vape cartridges that contained oil derived from cannabis — a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. While Griner was not mentioned by name, the customs service identified the detained person as a player for the U.S. women’s team but did not specify the date of her detainment.
The customs service released video of an individual who appears to be the 6-foot-9 Griner going through airport security.
“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent with Wasserman Group, told ESPN via statement Saturday. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”
The State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia on Jan. 23 that warned Americans against traveling to Russia because of “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”
Another “do not travel” advisory was issued Saturday, nine days after Russia began its military invasion of Ukraine.
The United States embassy in Moscow sent out a security alert on Feb. 27 that said, “An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”
For the past week, WNBA players in Russia have been leaving the country in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. A WNBA spokesperson on Saturday said that, other than Griner, all of the league’s players who were competing in either Russia or Ukraine this winter are now out of those countries.
“We are aware of the situation in Russia concerning one of our members, Brittney Griner. Our utmost concern is BG’s safety and well-being,” the WNBA players’ union said in a statement to ESPN on Saturday. “On behalf of The 144, we send our love and support. We will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”
Like many WNBA players, Griner, 31, has long played overseas in the winter months, most recently in Russia.
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement to ESPN.
Griner has played nine seasons with the Phoenix Mercury, who lost in the WNBA Finals last October to Chicago. She won a championship with the Mercury in 2014 and gold medals with the United States in the Olympics in 2016 and 2021.
“Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns,” USA Basketball said in a statement.
The WNBA’s Mercury said they were “in constant contact” with Griner’s family, her representation and both 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,” the Mercury said in a statement Saturday.
Longtime women’s basketball agent Mike Cound told ESPN on Feb. 27 that players in Russia were urgently working on getting out of Russia.
“For me, it’s way past ‘considering’ leaving,” Cound said then. “I’ve been on the phone with two players in the past few minutes working out flights. It’s really urgent now in terms of there being a dwindling number of flights leaving Russia, and they are going to be hard to get real soon.”
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