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Adam Silver: NBA commissioner says he’s working ‘side by side’ with WNBA to free Brittney Griner

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury but plays for a Russian basketball team during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February.

Russian authorities said she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The US State Department has since classified Griner as wrongfully detained in Russia and her case is being handled by the office of the US President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) Roger Carstens.

“The league — and by that, the WNBA and its sister league, the NBA — we have a huge responsibility to Brittney. Griner is one of our players,” Silver told ESPN.

“Part of our decision not to take on more visibility here, frankly, came at the suggestion of experts inside and outside government who felt the best way to get Brittney out was not not to amplify the problem.

“Having said that, the public has a huge role to play through protests or letting their representatives know how strongly they believe in this. So we are working.

“Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, is on this issue every day. I work side-by-side with her. We’ve been in contact with the White House, the State Department, the hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector.

“Our number one priority is her health and safety and getting her out of Russia.”

The WNBA season begins

It comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Griner’s wife on Saturday as his imprisonment in Russia continues.

According to a senior State Department official, the top US diplomat told Cherelle Griner that the release of his wife is a top priority for the department and has its full attention.

Blinken said the State Department is working the case day and night, and Cherelle shouldn’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything she isn’t getting.

On Friday, a Russian court extended Brittney Griner’s pretrial detention until at least June 18.

Griner was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and is one of the league’s greatest players of all time.

The league, which entered its 26th regular season without Griner, honors the seven-time All-Star with his initials and jersey number (42) on the sidelines of the 12 home courts. Griner will also receive his full WNBA salary, the league said.

Last season, Griner finished second in voting for the Most Valuable Player award. The 6-foot-9 center led the Mercury to the WNBA Finals, where Phoenix lost to the Chicago Sky.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Ellie Kaufman, Homero DeLaFuente, Wayne Sterling, Aya Elamroussi and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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