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The Phoenix Suns announced that they will honor Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner with a No. 42 decal on their home floor at Footprint Center for the remainder of the NBA playoffs.
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Griner is still detained in Russia after being taken into custody in February. Customs officials alleged they found vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her possession as she went through security at a Moscow-area airport.
In March, a Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported that Griner was expected to remain in custody until at least May 19. ESPN’s T.J. Quinn also reported that month that Griner faces the possibility of being held in Russia for as many as 12 to 18 months before facing a trial, according to Tom Firestone, a former legal adviser for the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The 31-year-old faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if found guilty of illegally transporting narcotics, per ESPN.
On May 3, the U.S. Department of State said it now considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained,” a designation that signaled the U.S. government could become more active in working to negotiate her return rather than waiting for the Russian legal process to play out, per Quinn. Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a seasoned international hostage negotiator, also reportedly agreed to work on Griner’s case, according to Quinn.
Like several other WNBA players, Griner was attempting to continue playing overseas during the offseason to earn additional salary. She had traveled to Russia for the resumption of the 2021-22 Russian Premier League season, having played for UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014.
The detention of the seven-time All-Star center comes during a time in which the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Russian governments is strained following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24.
The U.S. and allied countries have levied sweeping sanctions against Russia in response to its attacks. While President Joe Biden has said the U.S. won’t be sending its military forces to assist Ukraine, the House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on a nearly $40 billion bill to deliver aid to Ukraine.
The Suns will be debuting the decal honoring Griner during Tuesday’s Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks. The Western Conference Semifinal series is tied 2-2.
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