As calls for Brittney Griner’s release from Russia grow louder, the WNBA star’s case hit a setback on Tuesday. According to CNN, Russian state news agency TASS is reporting Griner’s detention has been extended through July 2.
The Phoenix Mercury center has been held in Russia since Feb. 17. Police say they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage as the basketball superstar returned to the country to join her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg. After months of silence on the subject, in May the U.S. government officially classified the two-time Olympic gold medalist as wrongfully detained. The change allows her friends, family and lawmakers to openly advocate for Brittney’s release.
On May 13, the seven-time WNBA All-Star’s detention was extended by 30 days, prompting her lawyer Alexander Boykov to think the “relatively short extension of the detention” meant her trial would be soon. While it’s possible he was right and a trial will begin soon, it’s also possible that this extension is a reaction to the increased attention Griner’s case has been getting lately.
On Monday, Griner’s Phoenix Mercury teammates met with U.S. State Department “officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans.”
“There is a lot involved in getting her back home and safe; they’re working relentlessly,” Phoenix Mercury superstar Diana Taurasi said in a statement. “We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives. We want BG to come home as soon as possible; it’s number one on our list.”
The team also had a virtual meeting with Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ) and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) to discuss congress’ response to the WNBA champion’s detainment.
“For the team, coaches and executives at the Mercury, every day without Brittney is a lifetime,’’ Stanton said. “I was glad for the opportunity to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Brittney’s release.’’