WNBA's 'Top Priority' Is to Get Brittney Griner Home from Russia, Commissioner Says

Erin WalshApril 12, 2022

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 17: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is defended by Azurá Stevens #30 of the Chicago Sky during the first half of Game Four of the WNBA Finals at Wintrust Arena on October 17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The 2022 WNBA draft got underway Monday night, but not before commissioner Cathy Engelbert expressed concern and offered her support for Phoenix Mercury veteran Brittney Griner, who remains detained in Russia.

Engelbert said, per ESPN's Mechelle Voepel:

"This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in. She continues to have our full support. Certainly, we're trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration. Just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can."

Engelbert added that the WNBA knows she's safe, but that they "want to get her home," which she noted was the league's "top priority" in her opening comments.

"We're following the advice ... there's not a day that goes by that we're not talking to someone who has views on what we've been doing and how we're moving forward," Engelbert continued.

"I know we're all frustrated, but we do need to be patient. The players have been amazing at following the advice they're getting and we're getting in order not to jeopardize her safety in any way."

Griner was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service at a Moscow airport in February after they allegedly found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. If convicted, she could spend a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The 31-year-old plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Women's Basketball Premier League during the WNBA offseason. The league took a two-week break in February for FIBA World Cup qualifying games and returned to action February 23.

Griner was selected first overall by the Mercury in the 2013 WNBA draft. She has gone on to have a very successful career, earning seven All-Star selections in nine seasons.

It's unclear when Griner might return to the United States. The WNBA season is slated to begin in May, and the Mercury could be without here. However, Phoenix is expected to receive "some roster relief" from the league, according to ESPN's Holly Rowe.