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Adam Silver Addresses NBA’s Role in Helping Bring Brittney Griner Home

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It’s been nearly three months since WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia after customs agents found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. As the league and U.S. government agencies have worked to ensure her return home, the NBA has refrained from making any league-issued public statements on the matter. During the draft lottery on Tuesday night, commissioner Adam Silver explained why.

“Both the WNBA and its brother league, the NBA, we have a huge responsibility to Brittney Griner as one of our players. Part of our decision to not take a higher profile here frankly came at the suggestion of experts in and out of government who thought the best path to getting Brittney out was not to amplify the issue,” Silver told ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “Having said that, there’s an enormous role for the public to play through protests or letting their representatives know how strongly they feel about this.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. government officially changed Griner’s status to “wrongfully detained,” signaling a drastic shift in how officials will try to get the 31-year-old back home on American soil. Until the change, Griner’s case had been handled by the consular office, but has since been passed to the special envoy’s office, according to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn.

Still, Russian officials have been uncooperative. Authorities have reportedly denied consular access to Griner from U.S. Embassy officials three times this month, according to the U.S. Embassy Moscow’s official Twitter account.

Silver told Andrews that, despite a subdued public stance on the issue, he and the league are working daily alongside the WNBA to help ensure Griner’s safe return.

“Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, is on this issue every single day, I’m working side-by-side with her. We’re in touch with the White House, the state department, hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” Silver said. “Our number one priority is her health and safety, and making sure she gets out of Russia.”

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