The WNBA Players Association’s president, Nneka Ogwumike, maintains that Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner remains in custody in Russia due to “a gender issue.”
As previously reported, the 31-year-old Olympic champion was detained by police in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport heading to New York after finding cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She is facing drug smuggling charges with a possibility of 10 years in prison for having the cannabis oil pen, according to officials.
Ogwumike made an appearance on Good Morning America Tuesday to shed some light on Griner’s situation.
“We move intentionally and given the nature of Brittney’s situation — it was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don’t compromise her coming home,” Ogwumike told host Robin Roberts.
“A lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going on. As much as we could know. But then understanding how important it was for us to be strategic about when and how we speak about her.”
The WNBA Players Union president then stated that Griner is being held on pre-trial lockdown because of her gender.
“When is it not? It’s disappointing that the question of it being a gender issue is top of mind now when it comes to this type of circumstance but the reality is she’s over there because of a gender issue, pay inequity,” Ogwumike said.
“I played in Russia for four years and played in Poland for one year and China for two years. We go over there to supplement our incomes and quite frankly to maintain our game. Our teams encourage us to keep up with our game by going over there and being more competitive. There’s so much that’s at play that, you know, we live politically intrinsically.”
The interview ended with Ogwumike continuing to uplift Griner’s community engagement by working to resume with “BG’s Heart & Sole Shoe Drive,” created to help benefit those affected by homelessness in Phoenix.
“She’s our sister and as a league we do everything together, we mobilize and energize each other and for us to be able to do that until she gets back is top priority for us. We have to continue to be one and move as one.”
Last month, Griner requested to be released on house arrest in Russia but was ultimately denied.