The story of U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury basketball player Brittney Griner is perhaps the biggest story in sports right now. During the off-season, she has been playing in Russia since 2014 for UMMC Ekaterinburg, winning back-to-back championships in the 2014-2015, and 2015-2016 seasons.
She was recently in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg when she found herself detained in February 2022 after flying to Moscow from New York, according to the Russian customs agency. The agency didn’t mention Griner’s name, but at the time, said a U.S. citizen was detained and put in pre-trial detention for smuggling narcotic substances. They also said a criminal case is underway, and the offense could lead to up to 10 years in prison.
Since then, Griner has been identified as the detainee, and a mugshot as well as video of her interactions with Sheremetyevo airport security was released. She is said to have traveled with hashish oil for vape cartridges, which is illegal in Russia.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner has been praying for her wife’s safe return since she was detained. In a recent Instagram post, the law student and speaker thanked people for their encouragement and support.
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated,” she wrote. “I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life. I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely.”
The situation is unsettling because of the ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine and the lack of diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and Russia presently due to sanctions imposed by the West. The seven time WNBA All-Star’s high school basketball coach Debbie Jackson told CNN, “My biggest fear is that … she will become a political pawn.”
Tamryn Spruill, a journalist who covers women’s basketball started a petition called “Secure Brittney Griner’s Swift and Safe Return to the U.S.” on Change.org.
As for Cherelle, she is trying to stay positive amidst what is a painful and agonizing situation, which we can see in her most recent Instagram post.
“We love you babe! People say ‘stay busy.’ Yet, there’s not a task in this world that could keep any of us from worrying about you,” she wrote. “My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday [sic] that goes by. 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.”
Brittney’s whereabouts are still unknown, but we are praying for her safe return. We also hope Cherelle and the rest of Brittney’s loved ones find ways to cope during this difficult time.