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Cathy Engelbert: WNBA ‘working diligently’ to bring Brittney Griner home

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert provided an update Monday on the efforts to bring Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner home to the U.S.

Griner has been detained in Russia since late February, when she was arrested on the suspicion of carrying hashish oil in her suitcase. Griner, who plays for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg in the WNBA offseason, is reportedly facing up to 10 years in a Russian prison.

“We continue to be working diligently on bringing Brittney Griner home,” Engelbert said. “This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in. She continues to have our full support. She’s just been such a great person in the league that I can’t be any more real about the situation she’s in.

“Certainly we’re trying everything we can, every angle, working through with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration, just everybody in our ecosystem to try to find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”

She added that representation has been able to visit Griner and that they “know she’s safe.”

“It’s just a very complex situation right now and we’re following the advice,” she continued. “There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not talking to someone that has views on what we’re doing and how we’re moving forward.”

Both the league and the state department have been vocal about their efforts to bring Griner home, although they have been quiet in recent weeks. Many have attributed this to the fact that the situation is precarious and any additional press coverage could make it more difficult to bring the WNBA star home as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to escalate.

Engelbert also said the league would undertake a philanthropic effort led by the Mercury to honor Griner. The effort, which will include activations from Griner’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, will take place in all 12 WNBA markets in the lead up to the league’s tipoff in May.

“The activations that we will do, the Mercury and the league, are intended to remind us of BG’s spirit of giving and do the work she’d be doing if she were here,” said Engelbert. “And certainly the work she will join us in when she returns.”