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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 Change.org 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.”
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 Change.org 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.