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Brittney Griner detained in Russia: Petition started for WNBA star, Houston native's safe return

Brittney Griner has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary.

HOUSTON — A petition has been started to secure a safe return for Houston native and WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner after she was detained in Russia.

According to Change.org, hundreds have already signed the petition on their website.

Griner being detained in Russian was first reported by the New York Times and then confirmed by KHOU 11.

A Russian press release said that a professional basketball player had been detained for allegedly having vapes that contained hashish oil in her airport luggage and that an investigation was underway.

RELATED: 'I love my wife wholeheartedly' | Brittney Griner's wife, Cherelle, posts statement on WNBA star's arrest

The press release about the detainment doesn't mention Griner specifically. The New York Times identified the player as Griner, citing Russian news agency TASS.

KHOU 11's Matt Musil reached out to Griner's father, who confirmed the story, saying her lawyers were involved.

According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, Griner was detained back in February. She had flown to Moscow from New York, and according to Russian officials, a dog indicated drugs may be in her carry-on luggage.

The U.S. State Department released a statement Saturday, saying, "We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen arrested in Moscow. Whenever a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services."

Brittney Griner's wife releases statement

Cherelle T. Griner, Brittney's wife, posted a statement on her personal Instagram after the news came out of her wife's detainment.

"Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia," Cherelle wrote. "Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life. I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely. Thank you!"

Brittney Griner played her high school basketball at Nimitz, then played at Baylor and was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA in 2013 as the No. 1 pick overall.

KHOU 11's Anayeli Ruiz spoke with Griner's former high school coach, Debbie Jackson.

"She is just a happy person, a good teammate. She was very humbled, you would never know she was a superstar," said Jackson.

She’s very concerned to hear Griner was arrested in Russia back in February.

"It worries me and everyone that knows her because we just don’t know the facts," Jackson said.

Aldine ISD, Baylor University release statements on Brittney Griner

Aldine ISD sent the following statement to KHOU 11:

"Our thoughts, prayers and support are with Brittney at this time. Brittney had an outstanding career as a four-year varsity starter for the Nimitz High School Lady Cougars' basketball team and led her team to the state finals her senior year. She then went on to Baylor University where she led the Lady Bears to a national championship. We will continue to monitor the situation and hope for a positive outcome."

Representatives from Baylor also shared concern for the athlete, according to KCEN reporter Matt Lively:

“The news of Brittney’s detainment is obviously very alarming, and our thoughts and prayers are with BG and her family. Right now... our foremost concern is for her safety and well-being during this difficult time in Russia and her eventual safe return to the United States.”

Griner has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

The 31-year-old Griner has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury and a national championship at Baylor. She is a seven-time All-Star.

On Saturday, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine and urged all U.S. citizens to depart immediately, citing factors including “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and “the Embassy’s limited ability to assist” Americans in Russia.

“Brittney Griner has the WNBA's full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement.

The Human Rights Campaign, which Griner had previously done a campaign for equality and inclusion for the LGBTQ community with, made the following statement:

“We stand with the WNBA regarding the arrest of Brittney Griner in Russia. The Human Rights Campaign committee in Houston is aware of the legal situation of Ms. Griner and her safety and swift return home is our utmost concern. We understand the LGBTQ rights in Russia are restricted and we will continue to strive for equal rights for all LGBTQ Americans stranded in every country.”

The Phoenix Mercury released the following statement:

“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home."

Her agent also made a statement:

“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”

According to the New York Times, transporting drugs can carry a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars in Russia.

WATCH : Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee demands Brittney Griner's release.

We are closely following this breaking story. Watch for updates on KHOU 11 and KHOU.com.

Inside High School Sports profiled Griner in 2020 with a throwback video to her high school career at Nimitz. You can see that video below.

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