Booking photo of Brittney Griner airs on Russian TV
(NewsNation) — WNBA star Brittney Griner was seen for the first time since her arrest in a booking photo aired on a Russian state-controlled television network.
The photo also aired on CNN.
Griner was detained at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow last month after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis.
It is not clear when the booking photo was taken. It reportedly aired in a Russian TV segment on March 5. Russian customs service still won’t say how long she’s been detained.
The photo shows the 31-year-old standing against a wall. She is wearing a black T-shirt, black pants and holding a white piece of paper that appears to have her name written on it.
Airport surveillance video obtained by Reuters shows Griner passing through customs at the airport where drug-sniffing dogs were used.
Griner is one of the most recognizable players in women’s basketball. She has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Phoenix Mercury and a national championship at Baylor. She is a seven-time All-Star.
Griner now faces a maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will provide assistance to any American citizen being held on foreign soil.
“There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point. Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we, of course, stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia,” Blinken said.
There has been an outpouring of support for Griner on social media from WNBA players as well as other athletes.
Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has thanked everyone for their support, posting a picture on Instagram of the couple.
Many have voiced concerns for Griner’s physical well-being as well as her mental health. She has dealt with mental health issues for much of her life and has been open about it.
“I think that one of the differences, though, with Ms. Griner is the fact that she’s not political,” Paul Wright, executive director, Human Rights Defense Center, said. “She’s a U.S. citizen and she’s an athlete — a professional athlete — and she plays for a Russian team.”
Griner has played basketball for the last seven winters in Russia. More than a dozen WNBA players were playing in Russia and Ukraine this winter, including league MVP Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley of the champion Chicago Sky.
But since her arrest, Russia has gone to war in Ukraine and tensions between Russia and the U.S. have been rising over Washington imposing new sanctions.
“I don’t think it was directly related to what’s happening in Ukraine,” Richard Stoll, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, said. “But having said that … now that she’s being held and now that this war is going on, she might be seen by the Russian government as a useful pawn in their struggle with the United States.”
The Mercury said in a statement, “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
The parents of Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who’s also jailed in Russia, offered some words of comfort on NewsNations’s The Donlon Report, saying, “I’d want to put everyone in her family at ease knowing that the vast majority of the people she’s incarcerated with are innocent.”