NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
The Phoenix Mercury will begin their 2022 season on Friday night against the Las Vegas Aces but the organization and the league will have part of their focus on Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia.
On Thursday night, the Mercury unveiled how their court and other WNBA arenas are going to look as they keep Griner in mind while the season starts.
A “Free Brittney” sign is held up in support of Brittney Griner during the Baylor-Iowa State game in Waco, Texas, on March 5, 2022. (Raymond Carlin III-USA Today Sports)
The league said earlier this week the “BG 42” decal will be on floors this season.
“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 in a news release. “We continue to work on bringing Brittney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time.”
Jim Pitman, the Mercury’s executive vice president and general manager, added: “In conjunction with the league, the other 11 teams, and those closest to BG, we will work to keep her top-of-mind as we tip the 2022 season. While we await her return, our main concern remains for her safety and well-being. Our fans will miss her impact on the court and in our community, and this gesture of including her initials on every court and our BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive activation in every market are for them and for her.”
Courtney Vandersloot of the Sky drives to the basket against Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury at Wintrust Arena on Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Griner was detained in Russia in February for allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. She’s been held ever since and is expected to have a hearing in Russia on May 19.
The league’s Board of Governors also approved Phoenix paying Griner $228,000 – the WNBA max – and not have it count against the organization’s cap,
The U.S. State Department reclassified Griner’s status on Tuesday.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is among the highest priorities of the U.S government,” a State Department spokesperson said. “The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner.
“With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”
Mercury’s Brittney Griner watches practice with teammate Diana Taurasi on May 10, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Fox News Digital also confirmed Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and U.S. ambassador during the Clinton administration, agreed to work on the Griner case. Richardson helped secure the release of American journalist Danny Fenster from a Burmese prison in November.
Griner’s family requested Richardson and the Richardson Center to work on her behalf to secure her return to the U.S.