Brittney Griner has been a basketball phenom for more than a decade, but she’s currently in the spotlight for a very different reason.
The Texas native, 31, was detained in Russia after a drug-sniffing dog at an airport near Moscow allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The Russian Federal Customs Service announced Griner’s detention on Saturday, March 5, but the airport screening occurred in February, meaning that the athlete could have already been in detention for several days. Her whereabouts within the country are currently unknown.
Tensions between the United States and Russia are at a historic high right now because of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s decision to invade Ukraine in late February. The situation has led observers to wonder if the basketball player’s detention is an attempt to retaliate against the U.S., which has led efforts to impose sanctions on Russia amid the conflict.
“My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by without hearing from you,” the Phoenix Mercury center’s wife, Cherelle Griner, wrote via Instagram on Monday, March 7. “I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person! There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”
After Russia confirmed Brittney’s arrest, the Mercury said that the team is “closely monitoring” her situation. “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA,” the organization added in a statement on Saturday. “We love and support Britney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health and her safe return home.”
Russia’s customs service has indicated that it may pursue serious charges against the Olympic gold medalist for “large-scale transportation of drugs,” which could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Texas Representative Joaquin Castro called Brittney’s detention part of “a pattern of Russia wrongly detaining & imprisoning US citizens” in a tweet on Saturday, citing former marine Trevor Reed as an example. Reed has been detained in the country for more than two and a half years on charges that American officials claim were fabricated by Russia to use him as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
“US citizens are not political pawns,” Castro added. “Brittney, Trevor, and other Americans must be safely returned.”
Though little is known about Brittney’s detention, fans are concerned that she may have been in custody longer than Russian customs has indicated. Her last social media post was an Instagram photo shared on February 5.
“Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated,” Cherelle wrote via Instagram on Saturday. “I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life.”
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