Nneka Ogwumike, the head of the WNBA players union, on Tuesday shared an update on Brittney Griner, the seven-time WNBA All-Star who was arrested in Russia in February and remains in custody overseas.
Ogwumike, president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, appeared on “Good Morning America” Tuesday to discuss the league’s efforts to bring Griner home.
Griner was arrested on Feb. 17 in Russia ― a week before that country invaded Ukraine ― after officers with the Russian Federal Customs Service allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil in Griner’s luggage.
“It’s tough ... That could have been us,” Ogwumike said of Griner, a Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist. “We’re really most concerned about her health and safety, especially her mental health. We’re hearing that in that respect, she’s OK, but we want her home.”
“BG is us,” she emphasized, referring to Griner by her initials. “We are BG.”
Ogwumike also explained why she’s speaking out about Griner now.
“We move intentionally, and given the nature of Brittney’s situation, when it happened ― it was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don’t compromise her coming home,” she told “GMA” anchor Robin Roberts.
“A lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going on,” she went 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.”
Ogwumike and Roberts talked about how problems of gender inequality helped to land Griner in her current situation.
“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,” she said. “The reality is, she’s over there because of a gender issue ― pay inequity.”
The highest-paid player in the WNBA earns $228,000 a year, while some top NBA players make more than $1 million, according to ABC News.
It’s not unheard of for WNBA players to travel overseas during the offseason to earn some extra money. “We go over there to supplement our incomes,” said Ogwumike, who herself previously played in Russia for four years, China for two years and Poland for one.