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NBA commissioner says he’s working ‘side by side’ with WNBA commissioner on Griner’s release

AP-Eric Gay

The commissioner of the NBA said in an interview on Tuesday that he is working in coordination with the WNBA’s commissioner to try to secure WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release from Russia.

During an interview with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, ESPN’s Malika Andrews asked him about the NBA’s role in helping get Griner out of pretrial detention in Russia, noting that the WNBA and individual NBA players had brought awareness about her detainment to the public but that the NBA itself had done so less.

“The league and by that, both the WNBA and its brother league, the NBA, we have a huge responsibility to Brittney. Griner is one of our players. I mean, part of our decision to not take a higher profile here, frankly, came at the suggestion of experts in and out of government who felt the best path to getting Brittney out was not to amplify the issue,” Silver said.

“Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, is on this issue every single day. I’m working side by side with her, but we’ve been in touch with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, you know, in every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” he added. “So our number one priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.”

The interview comes as Griner has been detained in Russia since February after officials allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. The latest extension of her detainment is set to run into next month.

Organizations such as Black Feminist Future and politicians have spoken out in recent days, urging Griner’s release.

“It is important for her to be released so that she can return to her family and her community and her sport. She has been held without justification and I will not rest until Brittney is once again free at home in the United States welcomed back by her family, her community, and her team,” Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) said in a statement shared through Black Feminist Future. “Justice for Brittney Griner Now!”

In a statement shared through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said that the embassy had been denied the ability to visit Griner for a third time in May.

“A consular official was able to speak with her on the margins of her court proceedings on Friday. That consular official came away with the impression that Brittney Griner is doing as well as might be expected under conditions that can only be described as exceedingly difficult,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing Tuesday.

“More broadly, I can confirm that Secretary Blinken had an opportunity in recent days to speak to the wife of Brittney Griner. He conveyed once again the priority we attach to seeing the release of all Americans around the world, including Brittney Griner in the case of Russia, Paul Whelan in the case of Russia – those are Americans who we consider to be wrongfully detained. That has been a priority of Secretary Blinken since the earliest days of his tenure,” he added.

Tags Adam Silver Adam Silver Black Feminist Future Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Cathy Engelbert Cathy Engelbert John Sullivan Malika Andrews NBA Russia Sheila Jackson WNBA

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