USA Basketball Star Brittney Griner in Russia

Brittney Griner is an American professional basketball player for Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA. In addition to this, Griner, who played for the 2016 and 2020 USA women’s Olympic basketball teams, is a two-time gold medalist. Recently, Griner has been traveling—but not in the way you think. For the past seven years, Brittney Griner has played in Russia for the UMMC Ekaterinburg, making over $1 million a season. However, Griner was recently arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow in mid-February.

Russian customs officials found hashish oil cartridges in her bag. For those who may not be familiar, hashish oil cartridges are mini containers that contain weed oil, also known as “hash oil.” These drug charges could put Griner in prison for up to 10 years in Russia, which has zero tolerance when it comes to narcotic substances, making Griner’s case a difficult one. 

Although United States officials are trying to free Griner from these charges, there have been no updates made at this time. Griner’s attorney recently asked Brittney Griner to be placed under house arrest due to the fact that the Moscow Regional Court did not provide a lawyer immediately. However, many experts have speculated that this request will not move forward. In addition to this, neither side has truly stated their position in this case. Brittney Griner’s lawyers have not claimed that she is innocent, nor have they denied her being in possession of illegal narcotics. 

What makes this situation even worse is Russia’s war with Ukraine. This is not the first time an American has been detained in Russia. In 1986, a U.S. reporter Nicholas Daniloff was released from Russia after spending weeks there. But seeing how Brittney Griner is an Olympic athlete as well as a star player in the WNBA, Russia now has a political chess piece in its hands.

There has been large support for Brittney Griner’s release. WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury issued a statement on Twitter letting fans know that they are aware of the situation and are working on getting her home. Although there have been many social media posts for Griner’s release, the harsh reality is that it will be complicated, especially in this current climate. The United States, amongst other countries, has placed harsh sanctions on Russia’s trade, which will most likely lead to a complex situation in terms of diplomacy and cooperation. With the number of sanctions the United States has placed, Russia will likely be looking to keep Brittney Griner in prison.