US Changes Status of WNBA Star's Detention

White House deems Brittney Griner wrongfully detained in Russia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2022 12:45 PM CDT
At Every WNBA Game, a 'BG' Logo
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner in a 2021 file photo. She remains detained in Russia.   (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

(Newser) – The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia and will aggressively work to secure her release, two US officials told the AP, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The new classification means her case will be handled by the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, an office that works to free wrongfully detained Americans abroad, per CNN. Meanwhile, the league will honor the Phoenix Mercury star with a floor decal and allow the team to pay her without it counting against the team’s salary cap, the WNBA announced Tuesday.

The All-Star center remains in Russia after being detained upon arrival in Moscow on Feb. 17, when authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis. Such an offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. To honor her, the WNBA's new floor decal will feature Griner’s initials “BG,” as well as her No. 42. All 12 teams will have the decal on their home courts starting with the season opener Friday night.

“As we begin the 2022 season, we are keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. The league also approved giving the Mercury roster and salary cap relief so they can carry a replacement player until Griner returns. Griner will be paid her full salary of nearly $228,000. A league-wide charity initiative spearheaded by the Mercury will support Griner’s philanthropic project, BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, which helps the homeless.

(Read more Brittney Griner stories.)

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