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Brittney Griner might still be in Russia, but her presence will still be felt in the WNBA.
The Phoenix Mercury unveiled a BG42 court decal on Thursday, which the WNBA previously announced would be used by all of the league's 12 teams for the season.
Griner remains detained in Russia after her arrest more than two months ago when officials allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. She had been in the country to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg as a supplement for her WNBA income.
Griner is now reportedly under investigation for large-scale transportation of drugs and could face up to 10 years in prison in Russia if convicted. While the U.S. government mostly stayed quiet as the case played out, a major tone change came on Tuesday when the State Department announced it had classified her as "wrongfully detained."
The U.S. government is now taking aggressive steps to free Griner, according to a State Department spokesman, while the player's family has hired top negotiator Bill Richardson to lead the effort from the private sector.
Freeing Griner will be a rallying cry for the WNBA as long as the player remains overseas against her will, and the WNBA said as much in its release:
“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,” said Jim Pitman, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Phoenix Mercury. “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.”
The league also announced the Mercury will be granted roster and salary-cap relief so they can carry a replacement player until Griner is ready and available to play. Meanwhile, Griner will be paid her full salary for the season.