Who Is Brittney Griner and Why Is She Stuck In Moscow?

SAITAMA, JAPAN – AUGUST 08: Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins, and Diana Taurasi of Team United States pose for photographs with their gold medals during the Women’s Basketball medal ceremony on day sixteen of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games at Saitama Super Arena on August 08, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WNBA player Brittney Griner, who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments. The 31-year-old Griner has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury and a national championship at Baylor. She is a seven-time All-Star. Griner’s arrest was first reported over the weekend by The New York Times. She was arrested at a Moscow airport after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed she had vape cartridges, which were said to contain oil derived from cannabis. Griner could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is working to free Americans in Russian custody, and he urged other Americans in Russia to leave the country. The LGBTQ community in Russia says that it is often harassed and discriminated against by the country’s government. Last month, the Russian Ministry of Justice tried to shut down one of the country’s most active and prominent gay rights groups, the Russian LGBT Network.

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