Brittney Griner’s ongoing detainment “unacceptable,” says Lynx…


Sunday marks three months since news broke that seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was detained after playing professionally in Russia.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who was an assistant for Team USA when Griner won two Olympic medals in 2016 and 2020, didn’t mince words about the milestone.

“It’s unacceptable that we’re approaching three months,” Reeve said. “She needs to get home now.”

Griner, 31, was detained on Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow after Russian officials said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her bags. Hashish oil is a more concentrated form of marijuana used for vaping. The news was reported on March 5.

She remains under investigation for “large-scale transportation of drugs,” according to the New York Times. If found guilty, she could be sentenced for up to 10 years.

Reeve’s comments Friday signal a marked change in tone from the start of the season.

Speaking on May 3, three days before the Lynx season opener, Reeve said trusted that the people working behind the scenes would do their job and secure her return while keeping Griner and her family in her thoughts.

“What we can do is what we’re going to do, which is celebrate Brittney,” Reeve said in May. “You know the giving person she was, give to the things that she supported. We will have Brittney’s name on the court and that sort of thing. It’s just some really special things that let Brittney know she’s supported.”

Reeve isn’t waiting idly any more.

“Initially, that’s where our focus was as we tried to let the highest levels of government manage Brittney’s safe return,” Reeve said. “But it’s now gotten past that, and now we’ve got to use our voices and say it’s unacceptable that she’s wrongfully detained in Russia for this long. And we need to make sure that President Biden knows we want Brittney home, and we need to work really hard every day to make that happen.”

The U.S. government classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” on May 3, meaning it would not wait for her case to run its course and would instead seek to negotiate a deal to bring her home.

Griner, who has played with the Phoenix Mercury since 2013, had flown to Russia to join her second team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, which competes in the Russian Premier League. Despite being one of the WNBA’s best players, she has also played overseas her entire nine-year career to supplement her salary in the U.S.

Griner was earning around $1 million per season in Russia compared to her $227,900 base salary with the Mercury in 2022.

With WNBA rosters capped at 12 players and no developmental league, WNBA players are often forced to play internationally to stay in the sport.

Always on the move

Elissa Cunane, a three-time All-American at North Carolina State who signed a hardship contract with the Lynx Tuesday, was drafted No. 17 by Seattle this year. After failing to make the roster in training camp, she went home for two days for her college graduation and got a call asking her to play in Mexico. Within 48 hours, she was playing for Halcones de Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico.

“It’s been a lot, but I’m trying to take advantage of every single opportunity that comes my way,” Cunane said. “I want to be in the league, I want to play in the league, so this opportunity to come here I’m just gonna give all I got.”

Jerked from Seattle to North Carolina to Mexico and now the Twin Cities in the span of a month, the volatility of life for a player like Cunane isn’t uncommon. And since she is in Minnesota on a hardship contract, whenever the player she is replacing, either Moriah Jefferson or Natalie Achonwa, returns from injury, Cunane will be left to find a new home.

“I’ve just got to be where my feet are,” Cunane said. “I’ve got to say, ‘OK, yeah I was somewhere different a week ago, but today I’m right here.’ So let me do what I can do in the moment. Just focus on that, on where I’m at.”

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