Ahead of Monday’s WNBA draft, commissioner Kathy Engelbert confirmed the league’s commitment to helping bring in a Phoenix Mercury star. Britney Greiner – who was detained in Russia since mid-February – returned to his homeland.
“I wanted to start by saying that we continue to work hard to bring Britney Grenier home. This is an unimaginable situation for BJ,” Engelbert said Monday in her opening remarks to reporters.
Russian authorities arrested Greiner, who plays for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, at Moscow’s airport in February and charged him with smuggling large quantities of narcotics – an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Griner was the first pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and is one of the league’s best players of all time.
“She still has our full support, she has been just such a wonderful person in the league. I couldn’t be more realistic about the situation she is in,” Engelbert said. “Definitely, we are trying everything we can, every angle, by working with Her legal representative, her agent, elected leaders, management; just everyone in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as possible.”
Engelbert also praised WNBA players for their patience with the process and following the advice that was given to them.
“I know we’re all frustrated, but we need to be patient. I know the players have been great at following the advice they’ve been given and we’re getting it in order not to jeopardize her safety in any way. We’re continuing to follow that advice and we’re working on it,” she said.
Two weeks ago, former WNBA star Lisa Leslie told The Podcast “I am an athlete” That people in the “world of women’s basketball” were told “not to make so much fuss about it that they can’t use (Griner) as a pawn, so to speak, in this case of war”.
Greiner has been able to meet her representative in Russia twice a week and is also able to receive letters and correspondence, ESPN’s Holly Rowe reported on Monday.
In mid-March, a source close to the situation told her CNN Legal team watched it multiple times For a week during her detention, they reported that she was fine. About a week later, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that an official from the US Embassy in Moscow visited Grenier and found him. Its in good shape.
On Monday, the commissioner also expressed her personal commitment to Griner and to get her home safely.
“I used to tell my daughter when she was little – and now she’s still in her twenties – ‘I’d go to the end of the earth to help you if I was ever in trouble,’ and I say the same about Britney Greiner.”
Engelbert also announced that the WNBA intends to launch a charitable effort in all 12 markets to honor Griner in the lead up to the 2022 season.
“As we work hard to bring Britney home, we will have a university-wide charitable initiative led by Phoenix Mercury, to honor BG and modeled on her work,” Engelbert said.
“BG, for those who don’t know, founded an organization in 2016 called BG’s Heart and Soul Shoe Drive. The activities we will be doing, which will be led by Mercury, are meant to remind us of BG’s spirit of giving and doing the work she would have done if she was here and certainly the work that She will join us in it when she returns.”
The WNBA season begins May 6.
A Moscow court announced last month that it had extended Grenier’s detention until May 19, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS. A trial date has not been set, a source close to the situation told CNN at the time.
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