Get home soon, sis!
If the recent invasion of Ukraine wasn’t terrifying enough for the thousands of Black refugees caught in the middle, the New York Times reported that Russian customs officials had WNBA player Brittney Griner detained. The Phoenix Mercury center was arrested at an airport near Moscow for drug possession.
Russian Federal Customs Service said they detained Griner after they allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil derived from cannabis after conducting a search of her luggage. Although the news just broke Saturday morning, the basketball star has been in Russian custody since the arrest happened at least three weeks ago in February.
It’s unclear how the timing of Griner’s arrest plays into the mounting tension in the region since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” against Ukraine on Feb. 24, but the situation looks worse and worse with each passing day. Putin called U.S. sanctions against Russia “akin to a declaration of war” on Saturday.
The seven-time WNBA All-Star isn’t a newbie when it comes to traveling through Russia. When she’s not leading the Mercury to the championships, she Griner plays overseas in the off-season. Since 2014, she has played for the UMMC Ekaterinburg Russian women’s basketball team. The country’s officials knew exactly when and where to expect Griner back in town, so until we get further details, this is all looking funny in the light.
The Phoenix Mercury released a statement about Brittney’s detainment.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney, and at this time, our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
Cherelle Griner opened up about the agonizing wait for her wife to return home safely in an Instagram post featuring a picture of the couple boo’d up on the beach during happier times.
“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. 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,” Cherelle wrote.
University of Pennsylvania Ph. D student and history scholar of Blackness in Russia Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon explained to MSNBC how serious the situation is for a Black American openly gay woman in the custody of Russia, which has waged a war on LGBTQ people long before this latest conflict with Ukraine.
“There is a precedent for this and it does not look good,” St. Julian-Varnon said. “These aren’t your typical possession misdemeanor charges. She is facing charges for large-scale transportation of narcotics,”which could carry a 10-year minimum prison sentence.
Brittney’s detainment raises more questions about double standards for Black women in sports. It’s a shame one of the biggest and most decorated stars in the WNBA isn’t paid like her similarly accomplished NBA counterparts. Many people also pointed out that the arrest would have immediately been a high-profile international incident handled differently if she was a man or White like other Baylor players detained in foreign countries under similar circumstances.
While concerned fans and loved ones wait for more details and good news about Griner, it’s important to remember we only know what Russian officials want us to know. Instigating racial tensions and manipulating information in America is one of their specialties so we should be critical about any information they share about this incident.
We’re wishing for Brittney’s safe and quick return home to her loved ones.