On Tuesday, Russian state TV released a picture of Brittney Griner, days after it was revealed that the WNBA star had been detained in Russia. The image, reportedly her booking photo, shows Griner holding a paper with her name on it while standing in a police station after being arrested in February. Per the report from CNN, the photo originally aired on state television on Saturday, the day it was announced that Griner was in custody, but was not released until later.
Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. CNN's @RosaFlores has the story. pic.twitter.com/SzB9MSSQfY— CNN (@CNN) March 8, 2022
Griner was arrested on allegations that she was carrying cannabis oil at the airport. A Russian official explained the situation, saying (translation via CNN), “An expert determined that the liquid is a narcotic drug, cannabis oil. A criminal case has been opened against an American citizen for smuggling a significant amount of drugs.” Smuggling narcotics in Russia can result in imprisonment for as many as 10 years.
There is no date on the booking photo, and no indication of how long Griner has been in custody. Russian officials have said that Griner was detained after a flight from New York, so she was presumably returning to her team, UMMC Ekaterinberg, where she has played during the WNBA offseasons since 2014. Ekaterinberg had a break for international play, including the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, from Feb. 1 to Feb. 20. Reporting from the Wall Street Journal suggests Griner could have arrived back in Russia around Feb. 17:
A review of photos on social media shows that Griner appeared to be in a hotel adjacent to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Feb. 16 wearing the same black hooded sweatshirt that she was seen wearing on video security footage inside Moscow’s airport later released by Russia. An Aeroflot flight left New York at night on Feb. 16 and landed in Moscow on the morning of Feb. 17. UMMC Ekaterinburg’s first game after the international break was Feb. 20.
Ekaterinberg played its next game on Feb. 20 with multiple other American-based players, including Jonquel Jones and Allie Quigley. Both players suited up again on Feb. 23, along with Quigley’s wife Courtney Vandersloot. The American contingent played once more on Feb. 27 before exiting the country prior to the team’s March 2 contest. There was no mention of Griner’s absence on the box scores for those three games.
Just landed in Turkey and all I want to do is cry. That situation was way more stressful than I realized. Thank you God for always watching over and protecting me— Jonquel Jones (@jus242) March 2, 2022
The WNBA and WNBPA connected with players in Ukraine and Russia as the threat of an invasion escalated. Per the Wall Street Journal, Griner is the only player who remains in either country. USA Basketball, the WNBA, the players association, and the Phoenix Mercury have all put out statements in support of Griner since her detention became public.
Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas told ESPN that she has been in contact with Griner as Colas works with Griner’s family and attorneys to extricate her from this situation.
“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent with Wasserman Group, told ESPN via a statement Saturday. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”
The selective dissemination of details regarding Griner raises additional concerns about her whereabouts. It also poses questions about what Russian news agencies, which are controlled by the state, hope to accomplish by releasing this information at these delayed dates.