Several weeks after news first broke that seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner had been detained in Russia for allegedly having hashish oil in her luggage, a source close to the situation confirmed to Jezebel late Thursday that Griner, a forward for the Phoenix Mercury, is OK.
The individual confirmed that Griner’s Russian legal team has seen her multiple times per week over the entire course of her detention, which began on February 17, according to an interview Representative Colin Allred (D-Tx.) gave to the the New York Times last week. This revelation follows news that a Russian court had extended Griner’s detention period to May 19.
“The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the US citizen Griner until May 19,” the court said, according to TASS.
The individual also told Jezebel that Griner’s legal team had unsuccessfully challenged her detention with the hopes of having the WNBA star transferred to house arrest, but that denial of that appeal was not unexpected. The individual confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing and that a trial date will be set upon its conclusion. If the investigation does not conclude by May 19, another hearing will take place to determine how much longer Griner will be held in detention, according to the source.
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Rep. Allred also noted that he was working with the State Department to have Griner released, although Russian authorities have reportedly denied the State Department’s repeated requests for “consular access,” or opportunities for the US consul in Russia to meet with Griner.
Griner, who plays overseas during the WNBA off season, was reportedly stopped at an airport near Moscow after she was discovered to be transporting vape cartridges containing hashish oil or marijuana concentrate. In Russia, being caught with six grams of cannabis or less is a civil offense, but the Times has noted that Griner could be convicted for “large-scale transportation of drugs” and potentially face up to 10 years in prison. Notably, Russia has been known to detain Americans on exaggerated charges, making the possibility of Griner being fashioned as a political pawn between the east and west likely.
Griner’s detention has set off alarm bells amongst family, fans, and political figures alike, as Griner is a queer Black woman trapped in Russia—a country that uses state-sponsored homophobia to maintain power—in the middle of a war and humanitarian crisis.
Critics have also been quick to denounce the low pay WNBA players currently make, which has pushed prominent basketball stars to spend their off season playing in Russia. Griner reportedly earns more than $1 million per season overseas and recently brought the MMC Ekaterinburg its fifth EuroLeague Women’s championship in 2021.
According to an interview WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert gave to PEOPLE, the WNBA is “actively engaged” with government officials in the hopes of returning Griner home safely.
“While pay equity is improving, many players are still opting for overseas play,” Engelbert told PEOPLE, pointing to the league’s newly minted collective bargaining agreement. She added that some players want to continue overseas purely for “passion.”
“They want to play as much as they can while their bodies can still do that, so we’ll support it, but we’re working on models that will keep more of our players in the U.S. for longer periods of time in the offseason.”