Despite being physically thousands of miles away, Brittney Griner will have a place at the WNBA All-Star Game as she’s been named an honorary starter.
On Wednesday (June 22), league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said it’s her rightful place, considering she’s been an all-star her entire WNBA career.
“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said, according to the Associated Press. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”
Griner was detained on February 17 by Russian Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after agents allegedly discovered hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage, The New York Times reported.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury stands accused of transporting drugs, which can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
The U.S. has officially classified Griner as being wrongfully detained. According to CNN, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) and Roger Carstens, a State Department official, confirmed Griner is wrongfully detained.
Russian state-run news agency Tass reported last week that Griner’s detention was extended until at least July 2. Meanwhile, Russian officials insist that Griner is not being held hostage, as the U.S. State Department has described the situation, but rather someone who is facing penalty for violation of Russian law. In an interview with NBC News, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin insisted that Griner is the same as “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.”
“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” he said.
Breanna Steward and A’ja Wilson received the most votes from fans and were selected as co-captains for the event. They will be joined by Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who have both announced they will retire at the end of the season.
Joining Wilson, Stewart and Fowles in the frontcourt are Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, Los Angeles’s Nneka Ogwumike and Chicago’s Candace Parker. In addition to Bird, the starting guards are New York’s Sabrina Ionescu and Las Vegas teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young.
The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game is slated for July 10 at DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena in Chicago.