WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for more than five months after being charged with carrying cannabis vapes, a detention that experts on Greater Boston said Russia is using for leverage.

Peter Roby, former athletic director for Northeastern University, said Russia is keeping Griner, who has a huge profile as a star athlete, for leverage to free a detained Russian person or to seek revenge on the United States.

Journalist Shira Springer said of Griner, "she's a political bargaining chip." Griner was arrested in February as the war in Ukraine was ramping up, and Vladimir Putin is known to be a huge sports fan.

"He sees sports and sports might as a symbol of Russia's strength, and to sort of strike at America's sports strength with one of the highest profile female athletes in America is no coincidence," Springer said.

The NBA, which owns half of the WNBA, has been largely silent on Griner in public settings, but Springer noted that players have been raising their voices in support of Griner apart from team owners.

WATCH: Is the U.S. doing enough to bring Brittney Griner home?