The 31-year-old center for the Phoenix Mercury has been in Russian custody since February, when she was detained on drug charges after Russian customs officials claimed to have discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo airport. The charges carry a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.
Since 2014, Griner has played for the Russian basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season. WNBA players often play for international teams overseas during season breaks; it gives the athletes, who generally make far less than their male counterparts, an opportunity to earn more money.
Griner is a world-renowned basketball player who helped to guide her team to a WNBA championship in 2014, just one year after being drafted. She has represented the United States in the Olympics as a member of the women’s national team in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo in 2020, and she holds two gold medals. Griner is also a seven-time WNBA All-Star.
The WNBA season begins on May 6 with four games, including Griner’s Mercury facing off against the Las Vegas Aces on their home court in Phoenix.
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