May 3, 2022 

Brittney Griner case ruled ‘wrongfully detained’ by U.S. government

League plans to honor Griner, help Mercury navigate her absence

Significant updates have arrived from the State Department and the WNBA as Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner hits two months of being detained in Russia over drug charges.

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 decal that will be displayed on WNBA courts awaiting Brittney Griner’s return. (Source: WNBA).

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.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream beat reporter and part of the breaking news team. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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