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Brittney Griner Acknowledged as Honorary Starter at WNBA All-Star Game

The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago began with a special moment honoring Mercury star Brittney Griner, who remains wrongfully detained in Russia after nearly five months in custody.

The league acknowledged the former MVP with a graphic recognizing her as an honorary All-Star and starter for Sunday’s star-studded showcase. The tribute prompted a strong wave of applause from fans inside Wintrust Arena as all 20 WNBA All-Stars joined in on the reaction from the floor while sporting warm-up shirts with Griner’s name and No. 42 on the back.

Later on, ESPN’s Holly Rowe joined Griner’s wife Cherelle for a conversation court-side during the second quarter of the game. Cherelle has been a key advocate in the ongoing fight to bring Griner home; most recently, she called upon former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who spent over a year as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for his assistance in talks to secure Griner’s return.

“It’s always going to be difficult being around basketball without my wife being present but I use these moments as just gratitude for her legacy and impact,” Griner said. “You know, that, even in her absence, you can’t not say Brittney Griner. So, I’m just so grateful that everybody in this arena is actually still remembering my wife.”

Cherelle also provided an update on the latest concerning the involvement of president Joe Biden, whom she recently spoke with after Griner wrote him a letter shortly after the start of her trial on July 1.

“Well, what I do know is, President Biden and his administration took the time to actually write BG back, and she is so grateful for that,” she said. “And right now, I truly believe the next step in this journey is actually to support our administration and making sure that they have our support to do whatever is necessary to bring her back home.”

The WNBA has remained at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness for Griner’s case and release. The 31-year-old was arrested in February for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil at a Russian airport; Griner plead guilty to the charges on Thursday, a ruling that came four days after her detention was extended to December by Russian authorities. If convicted, Griner could face up to 10 years in prison.

Ahead of the WNBA’s All-Star festivities on Friday, Sparks star and president of the WNBA players’ association Nneka Ogwumike spoke at a press conference calling for mercy for Griner as part of a panel that included Cherelle Griner, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Storm star Sue Bird and union leader Terri Jackson.

“BG, Brittney Griner, is an American hero,” said Ogwumike. “She is ours and she is yours, and we must get her home.”

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