'We want her home': WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike speaks out on Brittney Griner

WNBA Players Association president and Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike spoke out about Phoenix Mercury All-Star Brittney Griner on Tuesday morning, sharing concerns that she and her fellow players have about the wellbeing of their "sister" who has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February.

In an interview with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America," Ogwumike explained why she and other WNBA players have been thoughtful and careful about how they talk about Griner's detention in Russia — especially since there have been concerns that Griner could be used as a bargaining chip in Russian president Vladimir Putin's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"We move intentionally and given the nature of Brittney's situation — it was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don't compromise her coming home," Ogwumike said. "A lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going 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."

Even though they have to be "strategic" when talking about Griner, Ogwumike said that she and her fellow WNBA players are very worried about Griner's wellbeing. Griner hasn't had a consular visit since March 23, and last month her detention was extended to at least May 19.

"We're really most concerned about her health and safety," Ogwumike said. "Especially her mental health. We're hearing that ... she's OK. But we want her home."

Ogwumike also told Roberts that she believes gender is playing a role in Griner's case, especially since a number of WNBA players travel overseas to play during the offseason.

"When is it not? 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 and the reality is she's over there because of a gender issue, pay inequity," she said. "I played in Russia for four years and played in Poland for one year and China for two years. We go over there to supplement our incomes and quite frankly to maintain our game. Our teams encourage us to keep up with our game by going over there and being more competitive. There's so much that's at play that, you know, we live politically intrinsically."

WNBA commissioner gives update

Griner was on everyone's minds during Monday night's WNBA draft. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert opened the draft with a few words on Griner, and while she couldn't provide a substantive update on how negotiations are going, she was able to say that Griner is "safe."

"Obviously we’re getting a ton of support from the government, from specialists," Engelbert said. "And her representation is able to visit with Brittney.

"We know she’s safe, but we want to get her home. So it’s just a very complex situation right now and we’re following the advice. There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not talking to someone that has views on what we’re doing and how we’re moving forward."

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 10: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury durring pregame warmups at Footprint Center on October 10, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)
Brittney Griner remains imprisioned in Russia, and WNBA Players Association Nneka Ogwumike says she and other players are worried about Griner's mental health. (Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)