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WNBA will honor Brittney Griner with court decal as State Department moves to negotiate her release from Russian custody

Jason Burgos
brittney griner, wnba
Oct 13, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) shoots against the Chicago Sky during the first half of game two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With Brittney Griner still in Russian custody and no clear end in sight for her release, the WNBA will honor the star player with a “BG42” court decal during the upcoming season.

Griner — one of the WNBA’s greatest talents — still remains imprisoned in Russia following her February arrest at a Moscow airport after Russian authorities claimed she tried to enter the country with illegally brought vape cartridges containing hashish oil. She has not been formally charged but has been forced to wait as the process plays out slowly through the country’s legal system.

On Tuesday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that during this upcoming season, the league would honor the Phoenix Mercury star with a floor decal in a notable spot on the court of all 12 teams. Englebert also announced that the 2013 first overall pick will receive her entire 2022 salary.

“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,” Englebert said in a statement.

State Department moves to negotiate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner

brittney griner, wnba
Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Also on Tuesday, ESPN broke the news of a news stance the US government is taking on Griner’s ongoing imprisonment. Until recently, the basketball star’s handlers have been asked to keep a low profile while officials waited to see how the incident would play out through the Russian legal system.

Related: Brittney Griner Russian arrest creates concern among WNBA stars

However, as things continue to move at a snail’s pace federal officials have now reclassified the situation as a wrongful detainment. A State Department official told ESPN in a statement, “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 release.”

The change is a major shift in the State Department’s stance and means they will not wait for the situation to play out in Russian courts, and will now try to expedite her release by way of negotiations. She is scheduled for a hearing on May 19.