May 3, 2022
Brittney Griner case ruled ‘wrongfully detained’ by U.S. government
League plans to honor Griner, help Mercury navigate her absence
First, the State Department rules that Griner has been “wrongfully detained,” and will begin pursuing detainee negotiations with Russian officials rather than waiting out Russian legal proceedings. Bill Richardson, former Ambassador to the United Nations and expert hostage negotiator, will take on Griner’s case.
This news also comes with a blessing from Griner’s family that the league, Congress, and fans may bring attention to the situation as they wish. Griner’s family and the State Department had asked the public and politicians for privacy and to refrain from public protest. Civilians had previously been asked to publicly refrain from comments so that the State Department could go through appropriate channels.
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According to ESPN, Griner’s family is optimistic, although cautious of the timeline. Spirits piqued last week when negotiations resulted in the release of American Trevor Reed from Russian detention. One more American, Paul Whelan, remains in Russian custody.
Currently, Griner is in contact with caseworkers and is reportedly in “good condition” as of late March. Griner is scheduled to appear in Russian court on May 19 over the ongoing case. Experts say it’s unlikely she is acquitted in the Russian legal system.
WNBA takes steps to address Griner absence
In addition to the legal updates on Griner’s case, the league has also taken steps to support and honor her this season.
According to a Tuesday morning press release, every court in the league will display Griner’s initials and jersey number this upcoming season.
The Mercury previously requested roster and salary cap relief from the league, which was also granted. Griner will be paid her full salary, and the team will be able to free up money and space until Griner returns home.
In addition to the relief and court decals, every WNBA market will support Griner’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, as previously announced.
The WNBA season begins Friday. Phoenix will tip-off against the Aces, and despite optimistic updates, Griner will be sorely missed.