WNBA Champion Brittney Griner Arrested in Russia for Vape Pen, Faces Decade in Russian Prison
Over the weekend, it emerged that WNBA star Brittney Griner, who won the WNBA Championship in 2014 alongside her team the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested weeks ago at a Russian airport and has been detained by Russian law enforcement authorities. In a recently surfaced video clip, we see Russian customs officials searching Griner's belongings -- inspecting her luggage, opening her packages -- before producing a series of documents at the end of the clip that are presumably related to her detention.
Griner was reportedly carrying a vape pen on her, described as containing "cannabis oil" by Russian authorities. It is unknown whether the pen contained THC content or was a non-psychoactive CBD variety. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has appealed for privacy as she tries to "get Brittney home." Griner travels to Russia regularly to play for a Russian basketball team in her off-season.
Amid the backdrop of war in Ukraine and escalating tensions between NATO countries and Russia, the detention of a high-profile US athlete has led many to speculate as to whether Griner's situation could become politicized; the star athlete could, theoretically, face up to ten years in Russian prison for the importation of a singular vape pen whose THC content is unknown.
While seemingly innocuous, in a time where tensions and the vague threat of nuclear war always remains a distant -- though very much present -- possibility, Griner seems precariously poised to potentially serve as either a bargaining chip of sorts or a flashpoint within the larger conversation about US/Russia relations during a time of increasing uncertainty. Many experts have stated that the most likely effect of this uncertainty is a decreased likelihood US authorities will be able to negotiate for her release and keep her out of Russian prison.