Brittney Griner: Russia lengthens detention of US basketball star arrested in Moscow

Brittney Griner is probably the best female basketball player of all time. She has been detained in Russia since February and the Russian authorities have extended her detention for another month.

Griner, 31, was arrested on February 17 – although the arrest was confirmed in March – after Moscow airport officials allegedly will find cannabis oil in your luggagewhile returning to USA after playing in Russia.

US officials said the arrest is unfair and she should be released.

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing unnamed government officials, that Russia hopes to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer in the United States.

what happened to grinner

One of the last times she was seen in public was through CCTV footage. The basketball player was passing through the security zone of an airport dragging a small black suitcase.

Griner, a star pivot for the US team Phoenix Mercury, had landed at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow to compete in another season in the Russian league.

In the security video footage, she is wearing sneakers, a hoodie with Black Lives for Peace written on the back, and her long black hair in braids falling past her shoulders. .

At 2.06 meters tall – very tall even in the world of basketball – he towers over immigration agents and other passengers.

In another image, she is seen sitting in front of a man, apparently an immigration agent, shaking her head “no.”

Then nothing until a picture police appeared on Russian state television the second week of March.

Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of the Public Oversight Commission, a semi-official body with access to Russian prisons, told Tass in March that Griner shares a cell with two other women with no criminal record.

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shows of support

The uncertainty surrounding her fate generated a wave of support for the player, who is considered by fans and sports analysts alike to be possibly the greatest female figure to ever play basketball.

It has also sparked a sense of outrage from some fans who point out that the response to the player’s arrest has been curiously quiet.

Both fans and experts indicate that the little attention he has received compared to male players makes it clear enduring gender inequalities in professional sport.

“If I were a player of his caliber in the NBA [la liga profesional masculina]… this would be not only on the cover of every sports publication, but in every news outlet in the world,” said Tamryn Spruill, a sports columnist who is writing a book about the WNBA and Griner.

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury in a game against the Chicago Sky in Phoenix Arizona, 2021

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Brittney Griner is believed to have been detained for nearly four weeks.

Brittney Griner, a nine-year veteran of the league, is “the best of the best”commented Melissa Isaacson, sports journalist and professor at Northwestern University, in Illinois, USA.

She is the Tom Brady [estrella del fútbol americano] of his sport,” Isaacson said. “One could argue very accurately that she is one of the best athletes in the world.”

Star and undisputed pioneer

A native of Houston, Texas, she earned a basketball scholarship to attend Baylor University, where she led the team to a national championship.

She is currently one of the most dominant players in WBNA history, widely considered the best offensive player in the league.

Few and few have matched what Griner has accomplished -winner of a college championship, WNBA and EuroLeague titles and an Olympic gold medal. Plus, her famed ability to spike the ball into the basket is unrivaled.

She has also been a pioneer off the court, declaring her homosexuality at the age of 22, the moment she entered professional sports.

That year she was the first selected in the WNBA draft round and, shortly after, she became the first openly gay athlete (male or female) to be sponsored by the sports firm Nike.

“Before Griner, there was a shadow over the league, where you were told ‘don’t say gay,'” columnist Spruill explained. “And she just said, ‘To hell with that, this is who I am.'”

“BG was always meant to be a trailblazer,” said teammate Diana Taurasi.

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury team kisses her wife Cherelle Griner after winning a match

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Brittney Griner was the first openly gay athlete to be sponsored by Nike.

income inequality

Despite that, Griner had a second job and that’s why he had traveled to Russia – to play with the EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg, where he had played since 2014 during the US offseason.

About half of the WNBA players compete outside during the offseason. For most it is a way to increase their income: WNBA players earn almost five times more in Russia than in the US.

“If she was Stephen Curry or LeBron James [estrellas masculinas de la NBA]I wouldn’t have to go there because I’d be making enough money,” Spruill said.

Griner’s counterparts in the men’s league they earn more than 200 times the WNBA maximum salary.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EuroLeague suspended all Russian teams, prompting the US and the WNBA to recall their players.

But it was too late for Brittney Griner.

The Russian Federal Customs Service reported in a press release that a detection dog caused authorities to inspect the carry-on luggage of an American player and that they had found electronic cigarette cartridges with hashish oil. The Tass agency identified the player as Griner.

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury, in Phoenix, Arizona on July 19, 2014

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Griner is the first woman to consistently dunk the ball into the basket.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that US officials are “doing everything possible” to help her.

“There’s not much I can say given the privacy considerations in this instance,” Blinken said.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, spoke of being in “close contact” with the player and her legal representative in Russia, but offered no further comment.

A “pawn” in the political game?

Although there is no indication that Griner’s arrest was connected to the invasion of Ukraine, some US officials noted that strained US-Russian relations could compromise his safe return.

“We don’t want Griner to become a pawn in this political battle that is taking place around the world right now,” said US Congressman John Garamendi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“The war in Ukraine has essentially severed diplomatic ties between the US and Russia,” Garamendi said. “That’s going to exacerbate this issue.”

Until now, Russia has blocked consular access from the US embassy to Brittney Grinerhe added.

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury team leaving the basketball court in Phoenix, Arizona on July 30, 2017

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Since his first year in the WNBA, the star has remained a dominant figure in basketball.

The silence of the media

Some fans have reacted with disbelief to the apparent lack of attention in the sports media for a world-class athlete who is in prison.

Some have speculated that the silence could be intentional, in an effort to avoid fanning the flames of an already precarious situation amid negotiations with Russia.

But others, like Spruill, say the rather quiet media coverage of Griner exposes the stark inequalities faced by female athletes.

Much more ink has been spent on male players, whether it’s the intermittent retirement and return of football player Tom Brady, the saga of Novak Djokovic and covid in Australia, or the vaccination status of Aaron Rodgers, another football star. , Spruill points out.

Tens of thousands of fans have signed an online petition, organized by Spruill, demanding the US government prioritize her safe return and treat her like “any other sports icon.”

“There definitely hasn’t been enough coverage,” Spruill argued. “It is difficult for me to see it as something more than a decision of the media in general.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, posted a message on Instagram about her painful wait.

“People say, ‘stay busy.’ But there is not a task in this world that will prevent us from worrying about you. My heart, our hearts are skipping a beat with each passing day,” she wrote.

“There are no words to express this pain. It hurts, it hurts us.”

* This note was originally published in March, and has been updatedor to reflect the decision to extend your arrest by one month.

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Brittney Griner: Russia lengthens detention of US basketball star arrested in Moscow