Brittany Griner, the starting center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was arrested on February 17, 2022, after Russian officials said a search of her luggage at airport security revealed vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis. Griner could face up to a decade in prison if she’s convicted. It’s been over two months and Brittany Griner is still detained in Russia.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and some believe Griner’s detention is a political tactic of Russia, as she has not been allowed to return to the US, nor does she have a definite release date. There are speculations of a release date of May 19, 2022.
The United States now considers Britney Griner to be wrongfully detained by Russia and officials claim that they are working on negotiating her release now.
The Phoenix Mercury have started the 2022 WNBA season and Brittany Griner’s detention in Russia will weigh heavily on the minds of players all over the league. Sophie Cunningham, who along with Griner, helped the Mercury get to the WNBA Finals last season, was among those who talked about the star center being absent from the team. “We’ve just got to keep praying for her,” Cunningham said in a recent interview. “We hope she’s well. That’s all we know; you guys know as much as we do. No one wants to be in her situation. We miss her like crazy.”
Players also have been worried about saying the wrong thing and escalating the situation even further.
Griner’s arrest has also sparked call for a change in salaries to keep players from leaving the country during the winter months to play basketball overseas, which is what Griner was doing in Russia, as she is also the center for the BC UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The highest salary a player can earn in the WNBA is just over $221,000 for the regular season. Players have the option to stay in the U.S. and do other media work in the offseason, but some choose to go to other countries, like Russia, where they could earn around $1 million or more a season.
For a little background on Brittney, she was born Brittany Yevette Griner on October 18, 1990, and has played for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association her entire professional career. Standing at 6’9” tall, Brittany played college basketball for the Baylor Lady Bears in Waco, Texas from 2009-2012. She is the only NCAA basketball player to both score 2,000 points and block 500 shots, male or female. In 2012, the three-time All-American was named the AP Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
In the 2013 WNBA Draft, the Phoenix Mercury selected Griner as the first overall pick. In Griner’s rookie season she was named a WNBA All-Star and would be a dominant defensive force in the league, averaging 3.0 blocks per game. In her debut on May 27, 2013, against the Chicago Sky, Griner equaled the WNBA dunk record, recording two dunks to equal Candace Parker’s career total. She thus became the third WNBA player to dunk and first to do so twice in one game, joining the aforementioned Parker, and Lisa Leslie, who was the first to dunk.
The Phoenix Mercury season starts May 06, 2022, against the Las Vegas Aces at the Footprint Center in Phoenix AZ. And all signs indicate that Brittany Griner will be unable to join them. And that might be the case for the entire WNBA season since Brittany Griner is still detained in Russia.
The question that not enough people are asking though: How long before Brittany Griner comes home???
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