Ogwumike: Griner detained in Russia for “gender problem”

While the seven-time All-Star of the WNBA, Brittney Grinerentering her 55th day in Russian custody, the WNBA Players Association has a new message amid concerns about her safety and mental health.

Nneka Ogwumikepresident of the WNBA Women’s Players Association and player for the LA Sparks, joined the program good morning america from abcnews Tuesday to shed new light on Griner’s arrest and explain the general mood among her fellow WNBA players.

“We’re moving intentionally and given the nature of Brittney’s situation — it was very important for us to be intentional and do our best to make sure we didn’t compromise her return home,” Ogwumike told Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview. “A lot of it had to do with letting us know the details of what was going on. As much as we were able to learn about her. But then understanding how important it was for us to be strategic about when and how we talked about her.”

the star of phoenixmercury, 31, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian customs released a video that appeared to show Griner going through security at an airport near Moscow and an airport employee removing a package from her suitcase. Griner had vape cartridges containing hashish oil, a crime punishable in Russia with up to 10 years in prison, according to Russian state media.

“It’s tough — it could have been us,” said Ogwumike, who has also played overseas this offseason. “We’re really more concerned about her health and her safety. Especially her mental health. We’re hearing that … she’s fine. But we want her home.”

In a statement, the US Department of State told ABC News, “We are very involved in this case and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team,” adding that Griner has not had a consular visit since March 23, but was in “good health.” condition”.

“The consular officer who visited Brittney Griner was able to verify that she is doing as well as can be expected under these very difficult circumstances,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Ogwumike said she believes there is a gender issue at play in Griner’s case.

“When not? It’s disappointing that the question of it being a gender issue is the most important thing now when it comes to these kinds of circumstances and the reality is that she is there because of a gender problem, pay inequality,” he said. “I played in Russia for four years and I played in Poland for a year and in China for two years. We go there to supplement our income and, frankly, to keep our game going. Our teams encourage us to keep up our game by going out there and being more competitive. There’s so much at stake that, you know, we inherently live politically.”

The WNBA’s maximum salary is $228,000, while NBA star players can earn more than $1 million a year.

While Ogwumike said “they treat us well,” he explained that “we don’t want to play 12 months of the year — we don’t want to feel like we have to go there to get what we want at home.”

On Monday night, the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbertimmediately addressed Griner’s situation abroad in the WNBA draft, calling his freedom a top priority.

“Before we get into tonight’s events, I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA’s support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner. Please know that bringing her home safely remains our top priority,” he said. .

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Ogwumike: Griner detained in Russia for “gender problem”