Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia while Phoenix Mercury opened the season

PHOENIX (AP) – Crowds of purple and orange passed through the walls that filled the city of Phoenix today, with great excitement at the entrance to the Footprint Center.

Their voices, which were no longer affected by the amount of traffic and tractors, created a loud noise inside the stadium that could cause the weather itself.

Inside was the sound of fear and sadness for one missing person.

Brittney Griner, a seven-time All-Star and double-triper to the WNBA Finals, did not feature with Phoenix Mercury in their opening match against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night. As Mercury and the rest of the WNBA progress this season, Griner is nearly three months in prison in Russia.they have no time to be released.

“It’s a horrible experience for him, knowing that some of us fans knew him,” said MJ Hill, who has had a Mercury ticket since the first season of the WNBA 1997 who wore a “Free BG” t-shirt. “She is a compassionate and gentle person, and it is very bad to think about where she is and what she is going through.”

Griner was arrested Feb. 17 after authorities at the Moscow airport said they had found vape cartridges allegedly containing oil made from marijuana in his bag, which could land him in prison for 10 years. The trial is set to begin on May 19.

WNBA and US officials have worked to secure Griner’s release, but nothing has been done with the Russian government.

“Not a day goes by that I do not work in any other way, talking to various US government officials, his aide, the family, some of the experts in this area who can help us along the way. WNBA Cathy Engelbert said in Seattle.

The WNBA and Mercury initially did not comment on the threat of Griner’s deterioration, but spoke highly of his arrest as it took a long time. Several players have spoken of Griner’s arrest, including Seattle Storm player Breanna Stewart, who tweeted daily about him.

“BG is on my mind every day,” Stewart said ahead of Storm’s game against the Minnesota Lynx Friday night. Sometimes you would not believe that they would have been wrongly arrested in Russia. I hope we find him at home. WNBA is not a WNBA without a BG. “

WNBA approves Griner this season with “BG” and his number. 42 in all 12 stadiums across the league as they continue to be arrested.

Washington placed its side on the blue edge between the benches in the Mystics court in the capital, located next to the “Black Lives Matter” concept. Some Indiana Fever substitutes sit down next to “BG42” while waiting for the break to join the game.

“We are all concerned with the state of affairs, which can be done quickly,” said Washington coach Mike Thibault. ”(This) has never happened and I think everyone is watching what is going on. It’s in everyone’s mind. “

Mercury players wear black t-shirts with “We Are BG” in white letters during the summer and spring. Guard Sophie Cunningham spoke to the crowd before the game against Las Vegas.

“We hope they will come with us soon, but so far we will be pushing and winning games,” he said.

Griner’s absence appears to be a devastation to Mercury when the game began, both mentally and emotionally. Phoenix, who missed two more injured players, fell into a huge hole and lost 106-88.

“In the first half, we didn’t give a damn,” Mercury Skylar Diggins-Smith guards said. “We know we have to do well. This is the first time all of us out there. They were physical, they came to their place, they shared basketball and we didn’t have all the basics “

Montie Apostolos who owns tickets at Chicago Sky wore a white dress Friday night with “Britney Griner Now!” front and “WOMENHOOPTOO MOVEMENT” in the back. He also had a sign with “Free BG # 42” and a ball passing through the net.

“I’m worried about how he feels,” said Apostolos, whose nephew, Jewell Loyd, plays for Seattle Storm. “I want her to know that we love her and that we are pushing every day as much as we can to make sure – keep it, put it first, what she still knows – and hopefully find a word.. And hopefully she will be released.”

In the middle of the 6-foot-9, Griner and WNBA managing director Diana Taurasi have been key players in the Mercury Franchise that won the 2014 WNBA title and reached the final last season, with a defeat at Chicago Sky.

Griner and six-Star All-Star, won consecutive WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2014-15 and are the best dunker in WNBA history. The two-time gold medalist, who had one of the best seasons in his nine-year WNBA career in 2021, led the WNBA in a closed shooter finishing second with a brace and a sixth in return.

Griner was again expected to play a key role for Mercury this season after the club strengthened his team with the additions of Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields.


AP playwrights Howard Fendrich in Washington, DC, Tim Booth in Seattle and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to the story.


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