Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended through at least July 2

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There is no movement on WNBA player Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia. She’s been held for over 100 days. Brittney was first arrested at the Moscow airport, trying to return to America, in February. Her detention has been extended three times. When I wrote about this in April, her detention was extended to mid-May. It has now been extended until at least July 2.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

[From People]

When I last wrote about this, it seemed like officials were strategically staying quiet so as not to further inflame political tensions while pushing privately to bring Brittney home. Now, more figures are speaking out publicly, likely because it’s been so long at this point.  NBA players like LeBron James and others are speaking out and linking to a petition. And NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the basketball league is working with the government on her release, which is interesting because just last week Brittney’s sister made a speech imploring the president, vice president, and government to bring Brittney home.

I am by no means a political expert, but the multiple extensions are shady as hell. Yahoo! Sports dives a bit further into the implications, noting: “Last month, the U.S. classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government, a distinction that allows the Biden administration to go from providing consular support to actively negotiating her release.”  Okay, but why did it take so long to do that, she’d already been held for months at that point. The outlet also consulted Yuval Weber, an expert on Russian military and political strategy, who said “he views the legal proceedings as a way to coat a negotiation tactic with a veneer of legitimacy. Weber expects Russia to extend Griner’s detention over and over to keep her in the headlines in the U.S. and to ratchet up pressure on the Biden administration to accept a deal that the Kremlin wants.” Ugh, it is absolutely horrible that a Black woman is being used as a pawn in the war games of men.

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29 Responses to “Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended through at least July 2”

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  1. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Russia, under Putin and the other oligarchs, is a terrotist organization.

  2. BeanieBean says:

    This is scary stuff. Unfortunately I think Russia is just using her as a pawn in some stupid display of–strength? Not sure what, but goshdarnit I hope they get her out of there soon.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      This. She is an American, she makes the news, and we’re in another cold war. She’s collateral damage for Russian assholes. They’re showing Biden they can do things, too.

  3. Carrie B says:

    Thank you for covering this story! We need to get Brittney home! Putin is disgusting.

  4. Jay says:

    I don’t know what the best approach would be – on one hand, public pressure to negotiate makes her a higher value poker chip for Putin to make demands.

    On the other hand, we know from other high profile prisoners such as Magnitsky (for whom the sanctions were posthumously named) that Russian prison is a terrible place to be, and it might be more dangerous for Brittany to be viewed as expendable. It feels like the US is stolidly playing by rules that Russia doesn’t bother to observe.

  5. Ari says:

    Jesus Christ. This is so messed up.

  6. EnormousCoat says:

    The State Department is involved and she’s been visited by a Consular, though Russia is refusing regular access, which the U.S. is fighting. Putin is a madman: there are no rules by which he abides, so reclassifying her helps us go around their “legal system”. And of course, this is all complicated by our support of Ukraine. I think about her detainment often. She’s now been wrongfully detained for 4 months. But again, when you are negotiating with a madman, there’s no straight lines.

  7. liz says:

    My understanding is that this extension was expected and the Russians are holding her looking for a high-level prisoner exchange. I think the initial hope was that her Russian team’s owners (oligarchs themselves) would be able to negotiate her release quickly and quietly. When that didn’t happen, the public pressure campaign started.

    It’s a complete mess at this point. It can’t imagine how her wife and family feel right now. And thank you for continuing to cover this story. Hopefully, they can get her home as quickly as possible.

  8. Bettyrose says:

    Has she been heard from? Is she okay??

    • EnormousCoat says:

      They have been able to get an email account set up for her so she gets emails from those close to her, including her team. She’s also had at least one consular visit, though they are fighting to see her regularly. They have confirmed that she’s doing as well as can be expected.

  9. elizabeth says:

    I just want to say thank you for this comments section not being a dumpster trash fire. I made the mistake of reading comments on Yahoo and had to go take a shower.

  10. CROWHOOD says:

    I feel queasy about this whole thing. It feels like Russia is capitalizing on an opportunity to hold a noted American hostage for a “justified” reason and that American “leaders” are quietly sacrificing her to the greater discourse.

    • Jay says:

      It may very well not be justified – people with more expertise than I have on the Russian legal system (like Julia Ioffe) have raised the question of a set up. I mean, why would she be taking “drug paraphernalia” on a plane OUT of Russia? It beggars belief. It seems targeted at Gryner specifically – especially as not only a famous American, but LGBT.

  11. ChillinginDC says:

    What in the world is a petition going to do? Do people get that Russia is at war with Ukraine and they are using her hold to try to squeeze the US on other things then? I hope they can negotiate an exchange which is the last thing I read about yesterday. But everyone acting like Biden and Harris don’t care cause she’s black and gay are making my head hurt.

    • EnormousCoat says:

      Amen. People really want Biden to act like Putin but also give them everything they want/say popular things that they like but aren’t attached to any kind of policy reality. The State Department is working for her release and not everything is a publicity show in a real and functioning administration. Her wife and her teammates know this.

  12. Jais says:

    Just hope she gets home as soon as possible. Fuck Putin.

  13. teecee says:

    This is going to be unpopular, but I think part of the issue was that she wasn’t “wrongfully detained.” She did break Russian law. Now, that law is nuts and she’s likely being slow-walked because she’s American and famous (and gay and black), but she did actually do what they’re accusing her of (bringing illegal substances into the country) and is being treated accordingly.

    In the past, American prisoners who were eventually released all say that most of the work was done behind the scenes. With someone like Putin, you don’t want the prisoner to become a symbol, because then he starts to look at the imprisonment as a matter of pride.

    I am sympathetic to Griner’s family but I’m not sure what her advocates are expecting the government to do. Russia is a sovereign nation that we’re currently semi-fighting in a proxy war – they’re not going to do us any favors. The only US intervention that might work would be a trade, but do we have any similar Russian in prison right now? It seems like any prisoner in US custody would be a spy or worse – someone who colluded to make Jan 6th happen – and is that an even trade? She was there because basketball is very popular in Russia. Maybe her celebrity there can help. I don’t know. But it is more complicated than people are pretending it is.

    And I can’t help but think of the many others imprisoned in Russia right now who are not getting this kind of advocacy because they can’t dribble a ball, the ones who were imprisoned for practicing free speech or journalism, not because they couldn’t go five months without weed.

    • Blithe says:

      How on earth do you know that “she wasn’t ‘wrongfully detained’”? You sound very certain. Sources?

      I don’t think that anyone is “pretending “ that it’s not complicated, so we’ll have to disagree on that. I hope this situation is resolved quickly, with Brittney’s safe return home. Perhaps at that point, some of the issues that led to her —and others —taking overseas jobs for financial reasons can be critically examined. Maybe Megan Rapinoe can be a consult for the WNBA re: pay equity concerns.

      • teecee says:

        Her lawyer admitted Griner was carrying a weed pen, which is illegal in Russia. She broke the law. Her situation sucks, but she did break the law.

      • Blithe says:

        Interesting: The recent news reports that I’ve read still say “allegedly”, with no mention of any admission of guilt by her lawyer. Since we’re likely checking different news sites, if you check back, I really would appreciate info re your sources, especially if there are sites that you would recommend. Thanks!

    • Green Desert says:

      @Teecee – Any “point” you’re trying to make, and your points are questionable, are completely negated by your gross and dog-whistle-y last paragraph. I see you.

      • teecee says:

        I am referring to the difference between actual political prisoners who break laws to benefit common people and celebrities who get themselves in trouble because they think they’re above the law. I can see YOU too.

  14. JEM says:

    Thank you for covering this. It’s so atrocious and I feel terrible for her and her wife and family.

  15. Concern Fae says:

    Yeah. You know Russia is holding her making some sort of outrageous demands that can’t be met. They want to split Black voters away from Biden. She probably won’t be released until after the November elections, when they hope to have a Republican Speaker of the House or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to welcome her home.

  16. TIFFANY says:

    The invasion blew up in Putin’s face and Brittney is suffering for it.

    They are literally holding this woman hostage because they want to weaken the U.S. involvement in strengthening our international ties so soon after Putin’s Puppet left office.

    • Janet DR says:

      That’s how I feel too. I hate this so much! I hope she is able to stay healthy in this precarious situation. The worst part of it is the cause of her being there is the unequal pay. There’s no excuse.

  17. Milkweed says:

    Such a scary and dicey situation. I hope she will be OK and returned home safely.

  18. jferber says:

    I feel terrible for her. Putin’s Russia is unfathomably scary.

  19. jferber says:

    Whatever Putin’s Russia’s claim is against her, I assume it’s a lie. I do not believe she had any form of weed. What I do believe is she was targeted at a strategic time for Russia in their war against the Ukrainian people and all who help Ukraine. She was famous and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since she played in Russia part-time, it probably never occurred to her that this could be done to her. She is a victim and she needs to be released right now.