As Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia, her wife and a hometown congresswoman react
As WNBA player Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia, her family is hurting, while one elected official amplified calls for her release.
Cherelle T. Griner, the wife of the Phoenix Mercury basketball star, wrote Monday in an Instagram caption "there are no words to express this pain. I'm hurting, we're hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family."
Griner has been in custody since February due to alleged drug charges, although the Russian Federal Customs Service didn't release footage of Griner, identified by Russia state-operated news agency Tass, at an airport screening until Saturday. The two-time Olympic gold medalist allegedly was stopped for carrying hashish oil in her luggage. The punishment, according to Russian officials, could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
"My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by," Cherelle Griner wrote. "I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person!"
CNN reported Tuesday that Russian state television aired on Saturday a photo of Griner holding a piece of paper at a police station. The photo was taken after Griner's arrest, the network said. The CNN report also included footage of a Russian Federal Customs service official confirming that a "criminal case has been opened against an American for smuggling a significant amount of drugs."
On Sunday, Cherelle Griner thanked those who had reached out to her after news of Griner's detainment broke the day before.
"I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life," Cherelle Griner wrote in a separate Instagram post. "I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely."
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who represents Griner's home district in Houston, demanded her release. Jackson Lee told a crowd Saturday that she spoke to the State Department and encouraged the agency to emphasize the case.
"If there's challenges and concerns about her actions, it should be dealt with diplomatically and she should be released," Jackson Lee said.
Jackson Lee also noted the potential danger Griner could face as tensions are heightened in the region with Russia's invasion of neighbor Ukraine.
During a joint news conference with Moldova president Maia Sandu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a general response when asked about Griner's case, citing "privacy considerations."
"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 Sunday.
"We have an embassy team that's working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia," he added. "We're doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected."
All WNBA players who were playing in either Russia or Ukraine this offseason are no longer there – with the exception of Griner.
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States," the WNBA said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Saturday.
Basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said the lack of information publicly available was "disturbing."
"I hope for a safe passage back for Brittney. Again, you know, not knowing all the particulars, I know it’s not right for them to detain her," Miller told Fox News. "I don’t even think we know where she is, I’m sure the State Department does, but there’s still very little information that’s coming out of Russia right now. That’s what’s a little bit disturbing."
Contributing: Scooby Axon; Associated Press