Amid the war on Ukraine, WNBA star and Olympian Brittney Griner has reportedly been held in Russia since February, with little information available about her exact fate.
The Russian Federal Customs Service made the news public via a published video on Saturday, announcing that he had detained « an American citizen » after a security dog detected the « possible presence of narcotics » in her luggage at an airport near Moscow, according to a press release quoted by CNN. The « narcotic substance » in question was said to be vape cartridges containing hash oil, a derivative of marijuana, by the New York Times. However, the Customs Service did not release Griner’s name; she was first identified by Russian news agency Tass.
According to The New York Times, the customs service has opened a criminal case for « large-scale transport of drugs », punishable by a prison sentence of up to 10 years in Russia. the Times notes that Russia has been accused of using « falsified charges » against Americans in recent years, which may partly explain why Griner is being investigated for « large-scale drug transport » while he was carrying a quantity that is likely strictly for personal use.
Griner’s sexuality could also play a role in his detention. Russia is notoriously homophobic, with its government sitting idly by during the 2019 « gay purge » in Chechnya, where hundreds of gay people (and those perceived to be gay) have reportedly been forcibly disappeared and tortured by the Chechen government. The country also has banned so-called “gay propaganda” since 2013, which prohibits minors from watching anything LGBTQ+ related, and homosexual marriage officially banned Last year.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle T. Griner, thanked concerned fans in an Instagram post on Sunday.
« Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated, » Griner wrote. « I love my wife dearly, so this message comes during one of the lowest times of my life. »
Griner added that while she understood that fans of his wife who « have come to love BG over the years » would « have concerns and want details, » she also wanted privacy while continuing to work for the company. take her home safely.
As of Thursday afternoon, a Change.org Petition calling for Griner’s return to the United States had garnered over 49,000 signatures.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, added that his team is unable to comment on the specifics of the ongoing case, but could « confirm that while we work to get her home, her health mental and physical remains our main concern », for the New York Times.
Griner, like many other WNBA players, was in Russia playing in the U.S. offseason to earn more money. According to His hoop stats, Griner is expected to earn $227,900 this season with his hometown team, the Phoenix Mercury. Even this amount is well above the average earnings of a WNBA player, which is less than $130,000, according to a 2020 union agreement. While that’s a sizable amount for the average person, it’s a pocket change compared to NBA salaries; according to a source, the average salary for the 2022 season should be $8.25 millionwith the highest salary, Steph Curry, taking home $45.8 million. The top WNBA player salary, meanwhile, was only increased to $500,000 in 2020 as per the union agreement.
This article originally appeared on them.