CHICAGO — Earlier this week, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia, where she remains detained indefinitely. Facing up to 10 years in prison, and almost certain to be convicted, Griner pleaded guilty in hopes of a lesser sentence, and also as a pretext for a possible prisoner exchange.
With the WNBA taking center stage on national TV on Sunday, the players made an effort to honor Griner and call attention to her situation. Coming out of the locker room at halftime, every player was wearing a jersey with Griner’s name and No. 42 on the back.
“Like we say, we are the most unified league in the world honestly and wearing the jerseys was a statement to show that we are BG,” Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson said. “Yes, we have the shirts and the pins but BG is one of us. She’s our sister and at the end of the day we are going to do whatever we can to amplify the platform that we have to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to do to make sure that she gets home safely.”
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Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Feb. 17 after the Russian Federal Customs Service claimed to have found vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil in Griner’s luggage. She has been charged with “large-scale transportation of drugs.” After 130 days of detention, Griner’s trial began on July 1, and her next court date is set for July 14.
On the Fourth of July, a handwritten note from Griner was delivered to President Joe Biden, which read in part, “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris later talked with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and assured her that the administration is “working to secure Brittney’s release.”
“I think the WNBA has always done a great job of keeping what’s important, important,” Candace Parker said. “I think, you know, obviously wearing the jersey is a small part I think in what we are all doing, in what we are trying to do, which is bring her home.”
“Her wife is sitting courtside and I can’t even imagine, you know, what her family and what she’s going through. So, I think the entire weekend has been centered around how can we amplify our voices and get her back as soon as possible.”