Lisa Leslie Tells Brandon Marshall, She Was Instructed Not to Make a Fuss About Brittney Griner, To Protect Her.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Nick Oza/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Former WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA MVP, spoke candidly about the Brittney Griner situation with I Am Athlete, the podcast and digital TV show created and hosted by former NFL star Brandon Marshall.

Brittney Griner, the star WNBA player for the Phoenix Mercury, is currently detained in Russia, where she was playing overseas during the WNBA offseason.

Griner was arrested on February 17th of this year for allegedly carrying hashish oil vape cartridges into Sheremetyevo International Airport. Griner, who could face up to ten years in prison for the drug charges, has been in a Russian jail since the arrest and some U.S. officials are concerned that Russia could decide to use her as a bargaining piece during its war with Ukraine. United States and Russian relations have been strained since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which prompted the U.S. to heavily sanction Russia.

Leslie told Marshall and former NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco Johnson that the WNBA basketball community was basically told by some people within the organization to avoid making a big deal about the situation to prevent Russia from feeling compelled to use Griner as leverage in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.

“What we were told was to not make a big fuss about it so that they could not use her as a pawn, so to speak, in this situation in the war. So to make it like it’s not that important or don’t make it where [we are] like ‘Free Brittney’ and we start this campaign and then it becomes something that they can use.”

Leslie was clearly conflicted over the advice and the situation involving a friend and player she cares about.

“Do we know? Is that the right thing to do or not?” she questioned. “I mean, it’s heartbreaking, I mean for all of us. That’s the feelings of it. You wanna do more. We are all wondering whether we should use our social media platforms and get behind it. This is the first time you’re in a situation and you don’t know what to do.”

Leslie also mentioned her ongoing conversations with former WNBA player turned Coach Dawn Staley about Griner’s well-being.

“What’s she doing now? Do you think they made her cut her hair? Is the bed big enough for her to sleep?” Leslie recalled wondering. “It’s thought about and talked about a lot, and the question is, what’s the right thing to do about it.”

Griner reportedly pleaded not guilty to the drug charges against her. The court then made the decision to extend her detention for another two months, until May 19th.

Leslie’s discussion on “I Am Athlete” marks the first time, a high-profile player has spoken about the league’s strategy publicly. Brandon Marshall’s “I Am Athlete” show has emerged on social media as a powerhouse digital presence, presenting exclusive interviews with top newsmakers about the most important headlines.

Marshall and team, recently interviewed former Bucs player Antonio Brown and former Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores about their controversies with the NFL. “I Am Athlete” dives deep into the human aspects of the top sports stories with a special emphasis on Marshall’s mission to educate people on mental health. The full Lisa Leslie interview can be seen on “I Am Athlete TV” HERE or it’s YouTube page HERE