Brittney Griner’s fellow WNBA players will now be able to draw as much attention to her case as they wantGetty Images
The US government now considers WNBA Phoenix Mercury C Brittney Griner to be “wrongfully owned by the Russian government”, signaling a “significant change in how officials will attempt to bring her home”, according to sources quoted by TJ Quinn from ESPN.com. The official designation change means the US government will “no longer wait for Griner’s case to play out in the Russian court system” and will “seek to negotiate his return.” It also means Griner’s fellow WNBA players and supporters in Congress will be “informed that they have the family’s blessing to bring as much attention to his case as they wish.” Until now, Griner’s personal team had “following State Department advice to keep a low profile so as not to make them a more valuable asset to Vladimir Putin’s government.” Sources “decline to say what led to the change” or whether there “have been any discussions about what it would take to secure his release” (ESPN.com, 5/3).
OFFER SUPPORT: USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said yesterday that the organization has “offered support to organizations trying to help” Griner’s detention in Russia. Hirshland said: “The resources between us, between USA Basketball, the NBA as a league, the WNBA – we’ve all relied on every friendship and resource we have from the State Department to the people we all work with. ” She added: “I don’t know if I see a place where we look at it and say we can do more unless circumstances change and we feel like there is. If we felt there was anything we could do to be helpful, we would do it in a heartbeat. Hirshland also said the USOPC had “had conversations” with the IOC about Griner, although she said she had “not spoken directly with IOC President Thomas Bach.” When asked if the USOPC should become more publicly involved in Griner’s case, Hirshland said she “hopes not.” Hirshland: “Not because we don’t want to be involved, but because it would mean something really terrible is happening. So I would say I hope not” (USA TODAY, 5/3).
IN THE FIELD: ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss quoted a source as saying the WNBA plans to honor Griner this season “with a floor sticker.” The sticker will feature Griner’s initials as well as his number, No. 42, and will “appear on the 12-team field” (ESPN.com, 5/2). The WNBA BOG also approved of the Mercury “paying Griner’s $228,000 salary — the WNBA maximum — and not counting him against” their salary cap (PA, 5/3).