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We’re coming up on a month since WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained by Russian authorities at the Moscow airport — and troublingly little is being said about her arrest, which allegedly occurred because of “large-scale transportation” of hash oil vape cartridges.
Griner's case mostly went quiet after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, which raised global concerns about the start of another world war. But interestingly, US and global media has remained quiet about her whereabouts, despite Griner being a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the first openly gay athlete endorsed by Nike.
"I do think that it's really unusual that we've not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services,” Rep. Colin Allred (D), who represents part Griner’s home state of Texas, told ESPN.
Allred’s statements came as a slight relief to Griner’s fans who've been concerned over a lack of official communication on the player’s wellbeing. According to the Washington Post, US authorities and the media are employing a strategy to downplay the importance of Griner’s arrest to improve the chances of negotiating her release.
On Thursday, Russian state news reported that Griner would remain detained in Russia for at least another two months, until May 19.
"There's only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point," said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken according to the BBC, adding that officials are “doing everything we can” to help.
What we know is this: The Russian government announced on March 5 that an unidentified US basketball player — later identified by Russian new agency Tass as Griner — had been detained in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on an unspecified date sometime in February. A rather-ambiguous video was released showing someone who looks like the player passing through airport security and having her bags searched by security. Under Russian law, Griner could be facing up to 10 years in prison on drug trafficking charges.
Griner, the WNBA’s number-one 2013 draft pick and seven-time league All-Star, won the WNBA championship with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014. In 2020, she walked off the court with her teammates to protest police brutality.
She has played for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014. The team is owned by copper and zinc mining billionaires Andrei Kozitsyn and Iskander Makhmudov (who have been tagged as Griner's possible saviors in this mess.)
Given the tense moment in geopolitical history, and Russia’s record of wrongful arrests, not everyone is taking the Russian government at its word when it says that Griner had cannabis products in her luggage.
"This is being reported as if people are taking these allegations seriously," Jonathan Franks, who has worked for multiple US residents detained by Russia, told CNN. "I think that it's a huge mistake to report these allegations as if they're true or even are likely to be true."
Griner is one of several US residents who are imprisoned in Russia, just as diplomatic relations between the countries have all but ended in the wake of Russia’s latest aggressions.
"You want to see Brittney Griner come home?” said Franks. “I would suggest calling the White House every day and telling them you want President Biden to prioritize the repatriation of wrongfully detained American citizens."
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