Baylor University remained largely silent as the world’s attention once again turned to the fate of former Lady Bears basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve out a nine-year sentence for a minor drug violation.
A search by Baptist News Global of Baylor’s social media found no evidence of any mention of one of the school’s most well-known alumna as her name once again spanned international headlines over the weekend. Lady Bears Coach Nicki Collen is the only Baylor spokesperson who has spoken openly about Griner’s plight.
There is no public record online of Baylor President Linda Livingstone saying a single word about Griner’s plight. There have been no university news releases on the matter.
On Nov. 9, Collen appeared on the CBS Sports program “We Need to Talk” and for the second time spoke plainly about Griner’s situation.
“There’s a reason why our government labeled her wrongfully detained.”
“I just like to look at it from the perspective of you know she’s a daughter and a wife and a mother and a sister,” Collen said. “She’s a family member and she’s a part of the Baylor family. I’ve tried to stay away from what happened, why it happened, should it have happened. To me it doesn’t matter. You support your own. And you know, there’s a reason why our government labeled her wrongfully detained, and I think that’s a big part of this — understanding that we don’t know exactly what happened but if our government says she’s wrongfully detained then she shouldn’t be there; she should be here and we should be advocating to get her home.”
President Joe Biden addressed Griner’s plight in a Nov. 9 White House news conference, where he was asked about her by Karen Travers of ABC Radio.
“WNBA star Brittney Griner today was moved to a Russian penal colony to serve out her nine-year sentence,” Travers said. “Do you have an update right now on her condition? What do you know about that? And does this mark a new phase in negotiations with the Russians to secure her release? Can the U.S. now fully engage in talks on a prisoner swap?”
Biden replied: “We’ve been engaging on a regular basis. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with her wife about what’s going on with her. And my guess is — my hope is — that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange. That is my intention. My intention is to get her home. And we’ve had a number of discussions so far. And I’m hopeful that, now that our election is over, there is a willingness to negotiate more specifically with us.”
“I’m telling you, I am determined to get her home and get her home safely — along with others, I might add.”
Although Biden declined to discuss specifics of the efforts to get Griner home, he said: “I’m telling you, I am determined to get her home and get her home safely — along with others, I might add.”
Last month, a Russian court rejected an appeal of her nine-year sentence. The star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Her arrest came just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine.
The Associated Press reported additional comments from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre: “Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long. As we have said before, the U.S. government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens.”
Griner’s legal team confirmed that she left a detention center outside Moscow Nov. 4 for a penal colony — described as exceedingly harsh conditions. Many penal colonies are located in remote parts of the vast Russian landscape.
Griner played four seasons at Baylor with 3,283 career points, 1,305 rebounds, 748 blocks and shot 57% from the floor. She led Baylor to a 40-0 record in 2012, which culminated in an NCAA championship.
She played for then-Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who now coaches at Louisiana State University and has refused to speak about Griner. That cold shoulder treatment has drawn scorn for Mulkey from those who think she is being petty when a young player’s life is in danger.
Apart from Collen’s statement last week and on Sept. 26, in response to a question at a news conference, Baylor does not appear to have said anything about Griner since July 8. Baylor Women’s Basketball recently tweeted a video clip showing Collen affixing a “BG” monogram to a women’s basketball jersey. No further explanation was given.
In September, when Collen spoke about Griner at a news conference Sept. 26, she said: “BG, first of all, is human and I think this is a human rights issue. No one is saying she didn’t make a mistake. None of us are perfect. I think BG’s family. She’s Baylor family. So to me, anything we can do to help her and her family is important.”
Political conservatives have made light of Griner’s situation, claiming she knowingly broke Russian law and deserves to be punished.
Baylor women’s coach signals her love and support for Brittney Griner, while the former coach remains silent
Why aren’t we defending Brittney Griner? | Opinion by Rodney Kennedy
Baylor drops language referring to ‘homosexual acts’
Baylor walks the line on LGBTQ student group as critics pounce from the right | Analysis by Mark Wingfield