Brittney Griner's Detention in Russia Extended for a Third Time: State Media

The Phoenix Mercury star has been detained for 117 days after authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage in February

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty

WNBA star Brittney Griner will reportedly be held in Russia for at least two more weeks.

On Tuesday, Russian state media agency TASS reported that a court has ruled to keep the 31-year-old American basketball player in custody through at least July 2, according to CNN and ABC News. The latter outlet said that officials would be holding her longer at "the request of the investigation," a rep for for the said Khimki Court of the Moscow Region, according to TASS.

This is the third time Griner's detention in the country has been extended since she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow in February. There, officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil, an illegal substance in Russia, in her luggage.

In May, the U.S. State Department officially classified Griner as wrongfully detained by the Russian Federation. According to the Associated Press, Griner's case is now being handled by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which focuses on hostage release and freeing Americans around the world it determines have been wrongfully detained.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN Tuesday that the department learned about this latest extension via Russian state media and that the American consulate in Russia last had access to Griner in May.

Brittney Griner #15 of Team United States during team warm up before the France V USA Preliminary Round Group B Basketball Women match at the Saitama Super Arena during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games on August 2, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty

After the Phoenix Mercury center was arrested in February, a consular officer visited her in March; Price said in a May press briefing that the officer verified that "[Griner] was doing as well as can be expected under these very difficult circumstances."

A number of WNBA and NBA players have expressed support for Griner in the 117 days since her arrest. In April, WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike spoke about the situation on Good Morning America; Ogwumike noted that she and other WNBA players have spent offseasons playing in Russia to supplement the income they make from the WNBA.

"Quite frankly, we go over there to maintain our game," Ogwumike explained at the time. "Our teams encourage us to keep up with our game by going over there and being more competitive, so there is so much that's at play that we live politically, intrinsically."

According to The Washington Post, Griner was in Russia to play with UMMC Ekaterinburg, her WNBA offseason team, at the time of her arrest.

On June 5, LeBron James called on the U.S. government to "do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home" in a statement shared to Twitter.

"We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!!" James said, sharing a petition demanding greater action be taken to ensure her return.

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James is not the only NBA star to publicly show support for Griner; on June 4, the Boston Celtics posted a video of guard Marcus Smart and other players wearing shirts that read "WE ARE BG" to a practice on Twitter. The shirts featured QR codes on their backs that link to the same petition James shared on Twitter.

"As a collective, we wanted to come out and show our support for Brittney Griner," Celtics star Jaylen Brown said of the shirts during a press conference. "She's been over there for an extended amount of time, and we feel like enough is enough."

Days earlier, ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is actively working with the government to "expedite" Griner's release.

"It's been now over a hundred days since she's been illegally held in Russia," Silver said. "I think it's something that all of us should be heard on, contacting your representatives and others. I will only say we are working in lockstep with the U.S. government and outside experts on trying to expedite her release in any way we can. Certainly our hearts go out to her and her family, and just are eager for her safe return. And so I join my colleagues in the WNBA in making reference to her as well."

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