Commissioner Adam Silver says NBA is working with WNBA to release Brittney Griner from Russia
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that he is working “side-by-side” with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to try to bring Brittney Griner home.
Speaking to ESPN’s Malika Andrews in a televised interview from Chicago ahead of the NBA draft lottery, Silver said his league heeded expert advice when it didn’t take an aggressive approach in the early stages of Griner’s incarceration in Russia.
“We have been in contact with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, all levels of government and also through the private sector,” Silver said. “Our top priority is her health and safety and making sure she gets out of Russia.”
The State Department also said Tuesday it is still pushing to have regular contact with the Phoenix-Mercury star.
A consular officer was able to meet with Griner last week when her pre-trial detention in Russia was extended by a month. Griner has been detained – wrongly, according to US officials – since February after vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil were allegedly found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
“This consular officer feels that Brittney Griner is doing as well as could be expected under what can only be described as extremely difficult conditions,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington. “But sporadic contact is not satisfactory. It may also not be in line with the Vienna Convention, which Russia is a party to.”
The 31-year-old Griner – a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the USA – faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for drug smuggling. Biden administration says Griner is being wrongly imprisoned. The WNBA and US officials have been working towards their release with no visible progress.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken to Griner’s wife over the past few days, Price said.
“He once again expressed the priority we place on seeking the release of all Americans around the world, including Brittney Griner in the case of Russia, Paul Whelan in the case of Russia, those Americans we consider unjustly imprisoned.” said Price . “This has been a priority of Minister Blinken since the earliest days of his tenure.”
Whelan is a Michigan security researcher being held in Russia. He was arrested in December 2018 while attending a friend’s wedding and later sentenced to 16 years in prison on spying charges, which his family says are false.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.