ESPN: USA Says Brittney Griner Is Wrongfully Detained; Will Seek to Negotiate Return

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 3, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 13: Brittney Griner #42 #3 of the Phoenix Mercury shoots the ball against the Chicago Sky during Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 13, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The United States government reportedly now considers WNBA star Brittney Griner to be "wrongfully detained" in Russia.

According to ESPN's T.J. Quinn, sources have indicated that the government's shift in how it views Griner's case will now lead to it attempting to negotiate her return rather than letting the legal process play out.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February after she was reportedly found to be in possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil at a Moscow airport.

Griner has a hearing scheduled for May 19 in Russia, where she has yet to be formally charged.

Per Quinn, a source close to Griner expressed optimism regarding her returning to the United States in the near future: "We feel really good about it, but we also know it can drag out, so we don't want to get our hopes too high."

Quinn also received a statement from Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who said: "Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home."

Adding to the optimism is the fact that Russia agreed to a deal last week that sent U.S. Marine Trevor Reed back to the United States in exchange for a Russian citizen who was convicted for drug smuggling in the U.S.

Griner's detainment around the same time Russia invaded Ukraine, which was a decision opposed by the United States and many other countries across the world and could have complicated negotiations over the release of American citizens in Russia.

News of Griner's reclassification in the eyes of the U.S. government comes on the heels of the WNBA announcing Monday that it will honor Griner throughout the upcoming 2022 season.

According to ESPN's Josh Weinfuss, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league would place a decal featuring Griner's initials and No. 42 on the court of all 12 WNBA teams this season.

Engelbert added that the WNBA is "keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community."

Griner, who has spent her entire nine-year career with the Phoenix Mercury, is a seven-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and one-time WNBA champion. She has also won two Olympic gold medals as part of Team USA.

Griner was in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, who she has represented during WNBA offseasons since 2014.