A few weeks ago, the U.S. offered a deal with Russia to bring WNBA star Brittney Griner back home. It's now been five months since she was detained in Russia on drug charges. She pleaded guilty three weeks ago, but now she faces a possible 10 years behind bars. Wednesday, the U.S. proposed a prisoner swap involving Griner and fellow prisoner Paul Whelan, a Marine, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the so-called "merchant of death."
D'Andra Moss is a friend of Brittney Griner's who spoke with "Newsy Reports" host Del Walters about the possibility of the prisoner swap.
NEWSY'S DEL WALTERS: D'Andra, thanks for being here with us here. Have you been in touch with Griner or anybody in the family? And if so, how are they doing?
D'ANDRA MOSS: I haven't recently. I imagine this time is very anxious. At least there has been some traction, there's been some headway, potential that she could be coming home. I think everyone is excited and optimistic, but still very much on pins and needles about the whole situation, understandably so.
WALTERS: What's it like for all of you guys who have played overseas, in the WNBA, in the different leagues, to be on pins and needles right now waiting to hear from Russia? Because the U. S. announced that they were trying to get this prisoner swap yesterday. They say they haven't heard from Moscow yet.
MOSS: It's like your heart is in your stomach, you know, because you're hopeful but you're scared. The thing is, you don't want this to go silent. You don't want to go into a situation where you're not hearing anything, so you're just really conflicted. That's the best word to explain it. You're conflicted because you wan them to come home, you want Brittney to come home, Paul wants to come home, his family wants him to come home. But at the same time, you know this is Russia. They could just go silent. You're dealing with Russia and the regime of Putin. Honestly, anything can happen so it's just such a tense moment. You can't really think about anything else. It's hard to really focus on anything else whatsoever. It's impossible. So I know that the family is just — that's exactly how they're feeling. They want this to just cross over to the next path and just waiting for that call that she's on the flight home. That's what they want so badly and that's the only thing that's taking up their head space at the moment.
WALTERS: You know, when we watched your counterparts in the soccer league take to the field and the different pressures that they were under, even though they made a lot less money than their male counterparts, we found out exactly how tough they were. How tough are the women of the WNBA, your fellow players?
MOSS: Incredibly tough. The things that women athletes have to go through in a man's world, in terms of sports: salary, just equity. These are incredibly resilient women. If you think about it, the WNBA and its players have been leading the way in every social cause there is. They are leaders at the forefront. They don't wait to see how the NBA will react or how MLB will react or NFL. They are leaders. So when I say, these are a group of resilient women because we've had to be all of our lives — because this is the only way that we'll have a place in this world and to get our respect, right? So you're dealing with a group of very resilient women, but we are still human, you know? And you don't want to just rest on that — that we'll just get through it and we're very resilient and we'll be fine. No. Take care of us and help Brittney to get home and take care of these women and give us the equity we deserve, and the respect. That's all we want. But a very tough group of women in the WNBA, period.
WALTERS: We now know that she was using cannabis for medicinal purposes because of pain. What type of pain — oh, I see you nodding your head. Tell me about it.
MOSS: Del, let me tell you something. When you play, year-round, a very demanding sport, including the travel — it's not like you're traveling regionally, you're traveling globally across Europe — and first of all, we're running every day, your joints hurt, it just hurts. Sometimes, you can't even sleep. You're so tired, you can't sleep. Between the traveling, you're practicing because you have to stay sharp on your craft. And then, when Brittney gets home in the summertime, she's in the WNBA. And then when that's finished, she has a couple of weeks and then she's back over in Russia. You never really have the opportunity to let your body calm down, right? So this is what happens as women players with a year-round thing. So pain, chronic pain is something that I can assure you most or all of us have dealt with. I've dealt with it. I've had seven knee surgeries — two ACL reconstructions and five in between. I've dealt with pain my entire career. So, it's something that you just start to live with, but you have to manage it because when it gets out of control, you can't really perform. You're trying to fight through pain. That means I'm not focusing on my task at hand as a player, which is playing defense, scoring etc., what my team needs of me. So, that is something that, especially someone of Brittney's caliber and her schedule, she has to be in chronic pain just because of her schedule. She's been playing this way since college. Think about her career at Baylor. She hasn't had a rest. I doubt she's had a rest for more than two weeks in the last 10 or 12 years of her life. Think about that. That's incredible.
WALTERS: She's 6'9" and when they take her back and forth to that Russian trial, she is in a cage and she is literally bent over. As you see the images of her going back and forth and inside the courtroom, is there something that you're seeing that we're not seeing that may give us a clue as to how she's doing physically?
MOSS: I think she's just trying to get by. I know that she's not comfortable, but I remember we talked about this the last time. She's trying to stay strong for her family because they're already worried. We're already worried. And she doesn't want people to worry more than what they already are. That's what Brittney's trying to do and I can see that through her face. This is not enjoyable for her. This is not enjoyable. This is not a vacation. And this is not something anyone should ever have to experience. So that's what I see when I see these images. She's trying to remain strong, especially when she's in court and the cameras are out because she doesn't want her family to worry.
WALTERS: Final question before I let you go. We always assume because we're in the States: Being gay is OK. It's not in Russia. Did you ever worry overseas about how these different countries would react to you differently than the way they react to people here in the States?
MOSS: Oh absolutely. Some countries more than others. But definitely when, for example, I spent many times in Ukraine, a lot of times in Turkey, to where you have to just be careful. You know, it's not OK. You have to just be wary about your surroundings and the people you choose to have in your circle, because sometimes things like that — being gay — it impacts your livelihood. It impacts your work. Your team presidents and members get involved in your personal life and now your livelihood is in danger in terms of how you make money and your contract situation. So, you have to be very careful about that stuff and in Russia, especially. So it's just, it's a lot. Again, a lot of the things that we have dealt with, that we put up with in a way because we enjoy the game and the other side of it and the great things that basketball brings us — but that those are one of the things, in terms of being gay and not really being able to be free — that's something we could definitely live without. And you have to really be careful. And there were a couple of times I really was mindful about all of those things in my circle when it came to certain places that I played, especially in Turkey, primarily.
WALTERS: Well, thanks for speaking out because we are now all watching and waiting. And I know it's even worse for you. D'Andra Moss, joining us now from the West Coast. Thanks for being with us.
MOSS: Thank you, Del.