What The NBA Commissioner Says About WNBA Star Brittney Griner’s Detention

Written By admin on July 11, 2022
Russia illegally detains WNBA star Brittney Griner

Last month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver opened a pre-Finals press conference with an update on WNBA star Brittney Griner. The 31-year-old center for the Phoenix Mercury has been wrongfully detained – an official distinction from the US State Department – for more than 120 days in Russia.

Griner traveled there to play for the EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg. Upon arrival, officials detained her at Sheremetyevo airport outside of Moscow for allegedly having marijuana vape oil cartridges in her suitcase on Feb. 17.

Although Griner’s situation is much more serious, similarly Maine sports betting is also not free and on hold so to speak. Gov. Janet Mills did sign the sports betting bill a few months ago but now begins the licensing process and ironing out the details which could take a very long time.

Silver says the NBA is working with the government

During the Jun. 2 press conference, Silver said the league was working with the government and more to help bring Griner home.

“I didn’t want to not mention Brittney Griner while I’m here,” Silver said. “It’s been now over 100 days since she’s been illegally held in Russia.”

“I think it’s something that all of us should be heard on, contacting your representative and others. We are working in lockstep with the US government and outside experts on trying to expediate her release in any way we can. Certainly, our hearts go out to her and her family and we’re just eager for her safe return.”

After an expected June hearing, the Khimki district court of Moscow extended Griner’s pretrial detention to Jul. 2, according to TASS, a Russian news agency. If found guilty, Griner could face up to 10 years in prison.

The State Department declared in May that Russian officials are wrongfully detaining Griner. At a media briefing following reports of her detention extension, department spokesperson Ned Price called for Russia to release Griner. And he said his department is in “constant contact” regarding her case.

“Brittney Griner should not be detained,” Price said. “She should not be detained for a single day longer.”

Calling foul, or clever, on Griner coverage

From media reports to social media postings, many have criticized coverage of Griner’s case, arguing that if she were a male star athlete, like LeBron James or Tom Brady, there’d be more of an outcry, and she may even already be home.

Others say the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, plus the delicate relationship between the country and the US, complicates negotiation efforts. Too big of an outcry may encourage Russian leaders to keep Griner longer or use her as a political bargaining chip.

T.J. Quinn, an investigative reporter for ESPN, looked into the situation. He discussed it in a March podcast interview with Vox. One issue discussed was the length of time from her February detainment to the news becoming public in March. Quinn says the delay was deliberate to protect Griner.

Quinn says the State Department gave the following advice:

“ ‘Look, you need to keep a low profile right now. There are two directions this can go. Russia has, nominally at least, a criminal justice system. It is quite demonstrably corrupt and subject to the rule of one man, Vladimir Putin, and his government, but there is one and it does operate. And until they have some idea of how she’s being treated, it’s better for you to keep a low profile.’ ”

Quinn said in the May 12 interview that some think the Russians, knowing the Ukrainian invasion was a week out when Griner arrived in the country, could have planted the drugs on her to gain leverage with the government. Others say she possibly had cartridges on her, but that either way, the continued detainment before trial remains unnecessary.

WNBA star Brittney Griner, one of the greatest players in history

The No 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, Griner is one of the top all-time players in the league’s history.

She has won Olympic gold twice, an NCAA championship in her years at Baylor University, and a WNBA championship.

Among the long list of Griner’s many accomplishments:

  • Two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2014, 2015)
  • MVP of the gold medal games in 2018
  • Six-time WNBA All-Star
  • Two-Time WNBA Peak Performer Award Winner (2017, 2019)
  • Two-Time All-WNBA First Team (2014, 2019)

Griner, who is 6-9, owns 12 of the 15 regular-season dunks in WNBA history. And she has 18 of the 31 all-time dunks in the league’s existence.

Photo by Keeton Gale/Shutterstock
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