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WNBA Star, Houston Native Brittney Griner Detained in Russia

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner

WNBA star player Brittney Griner, a Houston native who played collegiately at Baylor University in Waco, is being detained in Russia after customs officials said they found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow in February.

First reported by The New York Times this morning, the news is of major concern for not only Griner’s family and friends and WNBA fans, but for Griner’s team – the Phoenix Mercury – as well as WNBA league officials and the Player’s Association.

Per the report, the Russian Federal Customs Service on Saturday alleged it searched luggage believed to belong to Griner and found vape cartridges that contained oil derived from cannabis — a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The 31-year-old Griner was not mentioned by name, but the customs service identified the detained person as a player for the U.S. women’s team but did not specify the date of her arrest. The customs service released video of an individual that appears to be the 6-foot-9 Griner going through airport security.

Griner competes as part of Team USA Women’s Basketball and won gold medals in the 2016 and 2021 Olympics. “Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns,” USA Basketball said in a statement.

Like most WNBA players, she plays basketball overseas in the offseason, most recently Russia.

WNBA players have been leaving Russia since the invasion of Ukraine began. Per a WNBA spokesperson, all WNBA players other than Griner are out of Russia and Ukraine.

“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support, and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.” the WNBA said in a statement on Saturday.

The Mercury also released a statement on its 7x All-Star who led the team to a championship in 2014:

“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”

The WNBA Players’ Union also released a statement on Griner:

“We are aware of the situation in Russia concerning one of our members, Brittney Griner. Our utmost concern is BG’s safety and well-being. On behalf of The 144, we send our love and support. We will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”

Per ESPN, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia on Jan. 23 that warned Americans against traveling to Russia because of “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.” Another “do not travel” advisory was issued Saturday.

On April 3, 2012, Griner led Baylor with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots to win the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, 80–61 over Notre Dame. Griner was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Baylor finished its undefeated season with 40 wins, the most in NCAA history.

*This story is ongoing.
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Written By

Dorothy Gentry is the sports editor for the Texas Metro News.

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