U.S. Says Brittney Griner ‘Wrongfully Detained’ in Russia

The U.S. government now says WNBA star Brittney Griner is being “wrongfully detained” in Russia, ESPN reported Tuesday.

The Phoenix Mercury center was arrested at a Moscow-area airport on Feb. 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed vape cartridges containing hashish oil. She has not been formally charged but is scheduled to have a hearing on May 19.

“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department official told ESPN. “With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”

The official said that doesn’t mean Griner, 31, is being treated as a hostage, but as a wrongful detainee. Her case, previously handled by the consular office, has been moved to the special envoy’s office.

“We feel really good about (this change),” a source close to Griner told ESPN. “But we also know it can drag out, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high.”

WNBA Honoring Legend

The WNBA on Tuesday announced plans to acknowledge Griner’s importance to the league when the 2022 season tips off on Friday. Griner’s initials and jersey number (42) will be featured on the sideline of all 12 WNBA courts.

“As we begin the 2022 season, we are keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a news release. “We continue to work on bringing Brittney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time.”

Brittney Griner
USA Today Sports Images

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Griner is a seven-time All-Star with career averages of 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 254 games with the Mercury.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)