WBNA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert began Monday’s draft with an update on out WNBA champion Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February.
While Engelbert did not reveal specifics about Griner, she did say that the Phoenix Mercury All-Star player and Olympic gold medalist was “safe,” according to Yahoo Sports.
“Obviously we’re getting a ton of support from the government, from specialists,” Engelbert said. "And her representation is able to visit with Brittney.”
The commissioner added, “We know she’s safe, but we want to get her home. So it’s just a very complex situation right now and we’re following the advice. There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not talking to someone that has views on what we’re doing and how we’re moving forward.”
Russian authorities allege that Griner was stopped in a Moscow airport and was found to be transporting hashish oil, an illegal substance. She’s being held until at least May 19. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
Griner’s condition has not been elaborated on as the U.S. government continues to negotiate with Russia over the player’s situation. This is especially true given the current diplomatic relationship with Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine and continued military operations in the country, with thousands killed.
Engelbert echoed the difficult situation on Monday.
“Obviously we’re in a very complex geopolitical situation with Russia and Ukraine, and so this continues to be complex,” Engelbert explained. “I know we’re all frustrated, but we do need to be patient. I know the players have been amazing at following the advice that they’re getting and we’re getting in order to not jeopardize her safety in any way. So we just continue to follow that advice and continue to work on it.”
The commissioner also added that the WNBA will continue Griner’s BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive across cities with WNBA teams, Yahoo Sports reports. Griner has organized the campaign to collect shoes for those experiencing homeless for several years.
“We will have a league-wide philanthropic initiative led by the Phoenix Mercury honoring BG and modeled after her work,” Engelbert said. “That will take place in all 12 WNBA markets. … The activations we will do that the Mercury will lead are intended to remind us of BG's spirit of giving and do the work that she'd be doing if she were here and the work she will join us in when she returns.”