CHICAGO — Brittney Griner’s fellow W.N.B.A. players honored her during the league’s All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday, wearing jerseys bearing her name and number for the second half.
Griner, who had played for the Phoenix Mercury since 2013, has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February. On Sunday, with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, seated at courtside, the All-Stars lined up after halftime in matching No. 42 jerseys with “Griner” on the back.
Several players hugged Cherelle Griner, who said during the ESPN broadcast that she was grateful they had not forgotten her wife.
A’ja Wilson, a Las Vegas Aces forward who was one of the team captains, said wearing the jerseys was “a statement in itself.”
“We are not going to stop until everyone understands how serious this really is,” she said.
Griner, a seven-time All-Star who won a championship with the Mercury in 2014 and has two Olympic gold medals, was also named an honorary starter for the game by the league.
Griner had been in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a professional team, when she was accused of having hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Last week, she pleaded guilty to the drug charges, but she has not been convicted formally. She faces up to 10 years in a penal colony.
The U.S. State Department has said that Griner was “wrongfully detained” and that it would work to secure her release.
On Sunday, the W.N.B.A. commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, said at a news conference that Griner’s situation had affected players’ decisions about international play. Several players who usually compete in Russia have signed with teams in other countries for the coming off-season.
“We’re not going to say you can’t go play overseas,” Engelbert said.
W.N.B.A. players are free to play overseas, but can be fined for showing up late to training camp or the start of the season — a common occurrence because of the international schedule. Starting next year, players can be barred from league competition if they are not back for the beginning of the W.N.B.A. season.
The league and teams also offer incentives to encourage players to stay in the United States, such as marketing deals and bonuses. Engelbert said the league planned to spend $1.5 million on player marketing deals this cycle, an increase of several hundred thousand dollars over the last cycle.
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