WNBA vows detained star Brittney Griner will be at ‘forefront’ of new season with special tribute

Former captive says Russian arrest of basketballer Brittney Griner is the 'most audacious state hostage-taking imaginable'

Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, will be honoured by the WNBA throughout the upcoming 2022 season.

The WNBA will celebrate Griner with a floor decal that will be installed on every home court by the time the season kicks off this Friday (6 May).

The decal will feature Griner’s initials and her jersey number, 42.  In a statement, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said: “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.”

Griner has been detained in Russia since being arrested at an airport on 17 February. Russian authorities claim to have found cannabis oil in her luggage.

Her hearing is set for May 19, and if she is found guilty, she could face the maximum penalty of up to 10 years.

The Biden administration has classified Brittney Griner as “wrongfully detained”, which means that the United States government will prioritise getting her home.

Her case is being handled by the office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) which facilitates and coordinates the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad.

The basketball player was in Russia as she has played for the elite Russian basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during off-seasons since 2014.

Griner earns more than $1 million per off-season in Russia – quadruple what she makes playing in the WNBA.

The WNBA has also been vocal in their support for Griner, and Engelbert said: “She continues to have our full support. We are trying everything we can. We continue to work on bringing Britney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinary time.”

Griner’s basketball team, The Phoenix Mercury, will have their first game on Friday against the Las Vegas Aces.