WNBA Players Association President Speaks Out on Brittney Griner's Arrest: 'We Want Her Home'

WNBA player Brittney Griner was arrested and detained in Russia in February after authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage

Brittney Griner
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty

WNBA Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike is sharing an update on her "sister" Brittney Griner after the athlete was arrested in Russia and remains held abroad.

Ogwumike, 31, appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday, where she spoke with host Robin Roberts about the WNBA's efforts to bring Griner, 31, home.

Griner was arrested in Russia Feb. 17 after officers with the Russia Federal Customs Service allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport.

"It's tough," Ogwumike said of Griner's situation. The Phoenix Mercury star center has been detained in Russia since her arrest, and Ogwumike said, "BG [Griner] is us, we are BG."

"That could have been us," she said of Griner. "We're really most concerned about her health and safety, especially her mental health. We're hearing in that respect, she's okay, but we want her home."

Ogwumike also revealed why she is speaking about the arrest now. "Given the nature of Brittney's situation, when it happened, it was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don't compromise her coming home," she told the anchor, 61.

"So a lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going on as much as we could know," she continued, "but then understanding how important it was for us to be strategic about when and how we speak about her."

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury poses for a portrait during the WNBA Media Day on May 6, 2021, at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Brittney Griner. Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty

Ogwumike also commented on the coverage of Griner's detention, telling Roberts that gender plays a large role in how her case has been reported.

"It's disappointing that the question of it being a gender issue is top of mind now, when it comes to this type of circumstance, but the reality is, she's over there [in Russia] because of a gender issue. Pay inequity."

The WNBA Players Association president said she previously played in Russia for four years, Poland for one year and China for two years, explaining, "We go over there to supplement our income."

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"Quite frankly, we go over there to maintain our game," Ogwumike continued. "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."

U.S. officials met with Griner last month for the first time since she was arrested in February. US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing that "a consular officer visited Brittney Griner" on March 22.

"The consular officer who visited with Brittney Griner was able to verify that she was doing as well as can be expected under these very difficult circumstances," he said. "We'll continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly and that her rights are respected."

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league has been working to bring Griner home, telling PEOPLE they have been working with the Phoenix Mercury, "her agent, authorities, administration, strategist experts," adding, "it's a huge coordination to find the best way to get her home the quickest."

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