U.S. government now considers WNBA star Brittney Griner wrongfully detained by Russia

The Sky’s Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot have been teammates with Griner in Russia for the last three WNBA offseassons, but both expressed their relationship goes far beyond the basketball court. She’s a friend.

SHARE U.S. government now considers WNBA star Brittney Griner wrongfully detained by Russia
The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the United States will more aggressively work to secure her release even.

The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the United States will more aggressively work to secure her release even.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Tuesday began with the WNBA announcing it would honor Mercury star Brittney Griner with a decal of her initials and jersey number on the courts of all 12 teams this season. By midmorning, the State Department had reclassified Griner’s status in Russia as wrongfully detained.

The change signals the U.S. government has moved past waiting for Griner’s legal situation to play out and will begin to negotiate for her return.

As the news circulated, the Sky were making their way through media day at the Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield.

‘‘I saw [the news] this morning,’’ Allie Quigley said during her news conference. ‘‘I was so happy to know that we don’t have to wait for the trial date. Hopefully they can try to figure something out, some kind of swap or do what they do. Whatever it takes to get her home.

‘‘I’m sure that was really good news for her family, as well. I’ve been thinking about her the last two months. I just hope this is a step in the right direction toward her getting back home.’’

Quigley and fellow Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot have been teammates with Griner on UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia for the last three WNBA offseasons, but both said their relationship goes far beyond the court. They consider Griner a friend.

Quigley said their 2021-22 overseas season was typical, for the most part. Things began to unravel when the United States put sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in February. Quigley said there was stress surrounding whether they could get flights home and what would happen next. Once the State Department recommended that Americans leave Russia immediately, Quigley and Vandersloot decided to return home.

Although original reporting of Griner’s detainment didn’t come until nearly a month after her arrest, her teammates overseas were notified of what happened when she didn’t arrive to practice. Vandersloot said it wasn’t out of the ordinary for players to return overseas from breaks back home a few days late.

It was during a team meeting with their general manager that they all learned Griner had been detained.

‘‘I can’t even put into words that moment,’’ Vandersloot said. ‘‘How we felt for Brittney, how scared we were for her. From then on, it was just hoping she was OK mentally and physically, hoping she’s being taken care of.’’

CNN reported Griner’s case now is being handled by the office of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens.

Until this point, the WNBA and those closest to Griner had encouraged everyone to help them maintain a low profile about her detainment. With the news of Griner’s reclassification to wrongfully detained, however, there seems to be a shift in that approach. Across the WNBA, the mentality seems to be about bringing as much attention to Griner as possible.

‘‘We need to keep this top of mind for everyone,’’ Vandersloot said. ‘‘We want to continue to talk about it and make sure that she’s being represented and fought for and make sure we’re doing whatever it takes on our part to bring Brittney home.’’

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