Today the Women's National Basketball Players Association released a statement about the wrongful detainment of two-time USA Basketball Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner. Griner was detained on February 17 when Russian officials found hashish oil in her luggage as she was leaving for the United States as the Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent.
For a time, the Griner family requested the basketball community remain silent, or at least muted, about Griner's situation. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, took to social media to implore friends and fans to keep the family in prayer while also respecting their privacy.
Things changed when the U.S. State Department classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" earlier this month. "When the State Department deems an arrest 'unlawful or wrongful,' it signals that the U.S. government has credible information that the arrest is invalid or that the American will be treated unfairly," organizers posted on the WeAreBG.com site.
Cherelle Griner has since spoken on Good Morning America and ESPN about her wife's situation. Although there has been communication from the government, Cherelle and the WNBPA are now requesting a meeting with President Joseph Biden.
"Cherelle NEEDS to meet with the President. Her person, our sister, has been wrongfully detained for 100 days.You’ve heard our pleas. You have heard BG’s wife Cherelle’s pleas. And now more than ever, we need you to stand with us, to get her person home," the WNBPA wrote in their statement.
Right now, BG is an American citizen who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for 100 days. That’s 144,000 minutes. Anyone who has followed us knows the power of The 144. We know that speaking up together, as a collective, is game, life and world-changing. -WNBPA
Although the WNBA has been supportive by placing Griner's initials and jersey number on the courts of all 12 WNBA teams, they don't agree with both the WNBPA and the Griner family about the circumstances that lead Griner and several other top WNBA players to compete overseas in the offseason.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert remains adamant that WNBA players want to go overseas and called the inevitability of the overseas season "slightly inaccurate and outdated." This conflicts with what many players, including WNBPA president Nneka Ogumike, share consistently about their professional careers.
"We don't want to play 12 months out of the year. We want to play over here. We're treated well, that is the truth, but we don't want to feel as though we have to go over there to get what we want to get at home," Ogumike said on Good Morning America on April 12.
The full WNBPA Statement can be read below:
WNBPA Statement Regarding Brittney Griner's Wrongful Detainment in Russia
Brittney Griner is our teammate, our friend, and our sister. She is a record-breaker, a gold medalist, a wife, a daughter, a champion, a role model, an all-star and so much more. Right now, BG is an American citizen who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for 100 days. That’s 144,000 minutes. Anyone who has followed us knows the power of The 144. We know that speaking up together, as a collective, is game, life, and world-changing.
To our sisters, brothers, and colleagues in professional sports: sign the petition, hold your own media blackouts, please. Help us reach the White House.
To athletes, of any age, ability level, team, sport, or country: this is OUR teammate. A member of OUR global sports community, we need to stand up and stand together to call for her release. Speak up, speak out, and do not stop until BG is home.
To the media: write BG’s story. Use your platform and your voices.
To everyone listening: go to WeAreBG.org and sign the petition, call the White House and call everyone you know. If you know anyone in the Biden Administration, CALL THEM.
Cherelle NEEDS to meet with the President. Her person, our sister, has been wrongfully detained for 100 days. You’ve heard our pleas. You have heard BG’s wife Cherelle’s pleas. And now more than ever, we need you to stand with us, to get her person home.
And yes, we’re going to have the pay equity conversation. We’re going to talk about Betting on Women and Investing in Women’s sports so athletes like BG don’t have to risk their health and safety playing basketball year-round to make a living. We recognize that the wrongful detainment of one of our own is a pay equity issue. We cannot hide it or spin it, we have to own it because the sooner we do that, the closer we get to addressing the issue.
But we will save that conversation. Because right now, on day 100 of BG’s wrongful detainment, we are calling on everyone to use their platforms, no matter the size, to bring attention to her wrongful detainment, to get Cherelle that meeting with President Biden, and to GET OUR SISTER HOME. It can feel helpless to be here, unsure of what you can do to help while BG is there. There are action steps YOU can take and we are asking you, imploring you to take them. Call the White House. Call your Representatives. Sign and share the petition. Use #WeAreBG on social media. And engage in productive conversations about pay equity.
There is so much heartbreak and hurt in our country right now. President Biden, please use all available resources to get Brittney Griner home. We need something to rally around and build upon.
It’s been over 144,000 minutes that BG has been wrongfully detained, we know, and you know the power of the 144, but right now, we aren’t the 144 because we aren’t the 144 without BG. We need you, we need advocates, and we need solidarity. Let’s show the world the power of our collective voices, and get BG home.