By Jennifer Roback
Brittney Griner, 31, is a star player in the Women's National Basketball Association, but in March 2022, she made headlines after it was revealed that she had been detained while at an airport in Russia.
At the time, she was headed back to New York after competing for the country's UMMC Ekaterinburg team during the WNBA's off-season and was stopped after a scan reportedly revealed that she had cartridges containing "liquid with hashish oil," according to ESPN.
Her case has since sparked outrage amongst the sporting community, with many athletes and politicians demanding her safe return home. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in a statement, via Yahoo! Sports.
“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”
On March 17, it was then revealed that her detention has been extended to May 19, ESPN reports.
Public Monitoring Commission's Ekaterina Kalugina was able to gain access to Russian prisons and told the media outlet that she is sharing a cell with "two other women with no previous convictions," ESPN adds.
While many are relieved that the star is "doing well," a source close to the situation told CNN, fears have grown since news of her arrest broke, especially amid the war between Russia and Ukraine that many believe might become the next World War.
Tension between the United States and Russia have also grown within the past weeks due to the sanctions being imposed that have hurt their economy.
“What if it were LeBron?” tennis legend Billie Jean King asked during an interview with the Daily News. “Because Brittney’s a woman, I worry that way too many people look at her as a second-class citizen.”
Tamryn Spruill, a sports journalist, echoed King's concerns during a separate interview with BBC.
“If this was an NBA player of her caliber... this would be on the cover of not only every sports page but every news media page in the world,” she told the media outlet.
"She's every bit the Tom Brady of her sport," Melissa Isaacson, a sportswriter and professor at Northwestern University added.
Another question that has been brought up during Griner's case is if the charges are legititment or if she is being targeted due to her high-profile status. During an interview with The Washing Post, Daniel Fried, who was the former U.S. ambassador to Poland under President Bill Clinton, revealed that either scenario could be a possibility.
“I can’t say definitively she didn’t [do the crime], but the first thought I had when I read about [the arrest] is this sounds like [the Russians] taking an American hostage,” Fried told the media outlet. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they would do that—plant drugs and grab her. The American embassy and the U.S. government has been aware of the possibility of the Russians using Americans in Moscow as bargaining chips.
“It would be just like the Russians to do this—pick somebody, make a case. Unless there is actual evidence [implicating Griner], which would frankly surprise me, I would regard this as a political case, and I feel badly for this person who is caught up in it.”
Since the start of Griner's career, she has won a number of awards and is a seven-time WNBA All-Star. She is also one of only 11 players in the league to win an Olympic gold medal, FIBA World Cup gold, WNBA title, and an NCAA title.
Prior to the WNBA, Griner was a standout player at Baylor which led her to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
At this time, it remains unclear if Griner will be released from custody but WIS will provide the most up-to-date information as it becomes available.