The WNBA season is starting without seven-time All-Star Brittney Griner. But her name will always be present.
Every WNBA team will honor Griner on their court this season with a special “BG 42” logo. Griner is still detained in Russia for allegedly trying to transport marijuana vape cartridges in her luggage.
The basketball star has been in custody since early March. On Tuesday, the U.S. said it now considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained,” meaning the government will now try to actively negotiate her release.
Up until this point, there was a strategically muted reaction about Griner’s detainment from U.S. officials and WNBA stars. As an expert on Russian law told Outsports, there was a widespread belief that making Griner’s case political would hurt her chances at a just resolution.
“If it becomes political, then her life is in the hands of one man and his government, Vladimir Putin,” said ESPN investigate journalist T.J. Quinn.
But with Griner now imprisoned for nearly 80 days, it’s clear the thinking has shifted. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who’s worked for years as an international hostage negotiator, is now working on Griner’s case.
“We feel really good about it,” a source close to Griner told ESPN. “But we also know it can drag out, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high.”
Last week, the U.S. engaged in a prisoner swap with Russia, bringing home marine Trevor Reed, who had been held there since 2019. The news shows that diplomatic resolutions can be reached, even as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Now the attention turns to Griner. Her status will be front and center all season long.