WNBA says it's 'trying everything' to bring detained Brittney Griner home from Russia

Before Rhyne Howard joined WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert on stage as the No. 1 overall draft pick Monday, Englebert took time to acknowledge that the league is still working to bring Phoenix Mercury star Britney Griner home to the United States.

Griner has been detained in Russia since mid-February when she arrived at a Moscow airport. 

"I did want to start by saying that we continue to be working diligently on bringing Brittney Griner home," said Englebert. "This is an unimaginable situation for BG (Brittney Griner) to be in. She continues to have our full support. She's just been such a great person in the league that I can't be any more real about the situation she's in. Certainly we're trying everything we can, every angle, working through with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration, just everybody in our ecosystem to try to find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can. So thank you all for that."

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia.

WNBA DRAFT: With Griner's status uncertain, Mercury select front court depth

RUSSIAN MEDIA: Detention of Griner extended to May 19

The Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star was accused of carrying cannabis oil in her luggage and smuggling a narcotic substance. These findings could result in 10 years in prison.

"One thing I wanted to make clear is that in the meantime while we're working very hard to get Brittney home, we will have a league-wide philanthropic initiative led by the Phoenix Mercury, honoring BG and modeled after her work," Englebert continued. "That will take place in all 12 WNBA markets as we lead up to tip-off in less than a month.

"BG founded an organization in 2016 called BG's Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. The activations that we will do, the Mercury and the league, are intended to remind us of BG's spirit of giving and do the work she'd be doing if she were here, and certainly the work she will join us in when she returns."

REACTION:  Brittney Griner's wife and a hometown congresswoman speak out

STAY UP TO DATE:Sign up for our Sports newsletter now!

Nneka Ogwumike, the president of the WNBA Players Association, joined "Good Morning America" Tuesday to discuss Griner's detention and the thoughts among other players. 

"We move intentionally and given the nature of Brittney's situation. It was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don't compromise her coming home," Ogwumike told host Robin Roberts. "A lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going on. As much as we could know. But then understanding how important it was for us to be strategic about when and how we speak about her."

"It's tough – that could have been us," Ogwumike added. "We're really most concerned about her health and safety. Especially her mental health. We're hearing that ... she's OK. But we want her home."

Ogwumike, who has also played overseas during the WNBA offseason, believes that issues with gender and pay equity are at play in Griner's situation.

"It's disappointing that the question of it being a gender issue is top of mind now when it comes to this type of circumstance and the reality is she's over there because of a gender issue, pay inequity," Ogwumike said. "I played in Russia for four years and played in Poland for one year and China for two years. We go over there to supplement our incomes and quite frankly to maintain our game. Our teams encourage us to keep up with our game by going over there and being more competitive. There's so much that's at play that, you know, we live politically intrinsically."

Contact Analis Bailey at aabailey@usatoday.com or on Twitter @analisbailey.