Brittney Griner: WNBA regular season will start without one of its best players, who is still held by Russia

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The seven-time All-Star was arrested in February at a Moscow airport and charged by Russian authorities with smuggling large quantities of narcotics, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The State Department has classified Griner as wrongfully detained in Russia, and her case is being handled by the office of the US President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, a State Department official confirmed on Tuesday. at CNN. The office directs and coordinates the government’s diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad.

Meanwhile, his team – which reached the WNBA Finals last year – announced its opening night roster on Thursday, saying the team had been granted a bye and salary cap relief until that Griner “get her home safely”.

“It’s a tricky situation,” four-time star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said of her teammate on Thursday.

“It’s hard. And it sucks when you keep asking us because it’s emotional to deal with. It’s triggering. But we love our sister. We miss our sister. We’ll keep playing in her honor until until she comes back,” Diggins-Smith said.

A WNBA spokesperson said earlier this week that the league views federal authorities’ decision to classify Griner as wrongfully detained as a “positive development and a next step in bringing her home.”

“Brittney has been detained for 75 days and we expect the White House to do whatever is necessary to bring her home,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said in a statement Tuesday.

The WNBA will honor Griner this season by marking his initials (BG) and jersey number (42) on all 12 home courts.

Last season, Griner finished second in voting for the Most Valuable Player award. The 6’9″ center led the Mercury to the WNBA Finals, where Phoenix lost to the Chicago Sky.

She is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and played for Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.

CNN’s Jill Martin, Jennifer Hansler, Wayne Sterling, Brian Todd and Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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