According to Tass, per AP, the court said it “granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the U.S. citizen Griner until May 19.”
Media attention about this situation has been sparse, and many worried about Griner feel that structural racism and misogyny are at play—if it were another major athlete, like Tom Brady or Michael Phelps, we’d likely see much more intense coverage. I’d also wager we’d see less shrugging of the shoulders when it comes to the allegations against Griner; she might have intentionally brought what was found in her luggage into Russia, yes. It also might have been planted. And even if she was bringing a quantity that might be legal in places in the U.S., or legal for personal use, ten years in a Russian prison is pretty clearly outrageous.
No matter what, just writing off the situation by suggesting Griner shouldn’t have been in Russia anyway is not helpful, and it’s worth considering if people would say that about someone like the beforementioned Brady or Phelps.
Per the AP, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the department is doing “everything we can” to support Griner’s family and doing “everything we can” to get her fair treatment—and eventual release—from overseas. Earlier this March, Democratic Rep. Collin Allred of Texas said Griner has not been granted consular access, which is also concerning
In general, media coverage has been pretty quiet about Griner, and it’s possible it’s a strategy. “Everyone’s getting the strategy of say less and push more privately behind the scenes,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who serves as commissioner of the WNBA, explained recently.
Either way, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian sees parallels between Griner’s situation and his own horror of being detained in Tehran for more than 500 days back in 2014.
“I know from my own case that the supposed charges against me were not based in anything like reality,” he said to CNN in an interview. “And they were used to perpetuate a narrative about why I was being held.”
And that’s part of the context we simply can’t ignore: We aren’t getting full information, and what we are getting is from state-sponsored Russian media. Even if Griner made a (very foolish) mistake, that doesn’t mean she was actually smuggling mass amounts of narcotics into the country with the intent to disperse. It also doesn’t mean it makes sense that the month following her arrest on February 17 was basically radio silence to the public.
As reported by BBC, Ekaterina Kalugina, who serves as a member of the Public Monitoring Commission (a group that has access to prisons in Russia), told Tass that Griner had no issues except that the bed was too short for her height. Kalugina claimed Griner has been sharing a cell with two other women who don’t have prior convictions.
Somehow I seriously doubt Griner’s only issue is the length of her bed.