Brittney Griner on Gershkovich Arrest: ‘No One Should Be in Those Conditions’
Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star who became the center of a geopolitical showdown between the United States and Russia last year, said Thursday that her management team has been in touch with the family of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia and classified by the U.S. government as a wrongful detainee.
Ms. Griner, who was detained in Russia for nearly 10 months last year, spoke with news reporters for the first time since her release in December in a prisoner exchange. She said that nobody, including Mr. Gershkovich, deserved an experience similar to her imprisonment. “No one should be in those conditions,” she said.
Ms. Griner’s news conference came as the United States and Russia clashed over the detainment of Mr. Gershkovich, who is accused of espionage. He was detained by Russian security services in late March and charged with espionage in mid-April, an accusation that his employer and U.S. officials strongly deny.
Ms. Griner said that she had not spoken directly to Mr. Gershkovich’s family, but that the Mercury and Wasserman, the agency that represents her, had been “sharing knowledge, which is a big thing.”
She added: “It goes a long way because I mean, you’re in foreign territory and you’re in unknown waters. So there’s a lot know that we might know that they didn’t know so there’s been a lot of communication between both teams.”
Also on Thursday, three major American news papers jointly called for Mr. Gershkovich’s release, with a full-page ad in each of their print editions. The ad, published in the Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times, said the arrest was “the latest in a disturbing trend where journalists are harassed, arrested or worse for reporting the news.”
“Reporting is not a crime,” the ad said.
Mr. Gershkovich was arrested on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg, the same city where Ms. Griner had played professionally during the W.N.B.A. off-season to earn extra money.
She said on Thursday that she did not plan to play outside the United States again unless she was representing the country in the Olympics.
But she also said she wouldn’t “knock” any player who wanted to go overseas to supplement their W.N.B.A. salary. “It’s a shame that we have to leave our families for holidays,” Griner said. “I mean, you’re missing everything, but at the same time as much as I would love to go pay my light bill for the love of the game, I can’t.”
Kris Rhim reported from Phoenix and Alan Yuhas reported from New York.
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