WNBA Names Brittney Griner Honorary All-Star Starter | Russia–Ukraine War

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Russian news agency Tass reported that Griner’s detention had been extended until at least July 2.

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star detained in Russia for months, will have her place in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star Game as an honorary starter.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Wednesday the starters were chosen by a combination of fan, media and player votes.

“In every season of Brittney’s career that there was an All-Star Game, she was selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said.

“It is not difficult to imagine that if BG [Griner] were with us this season, she would be selected again and would not hesitate to show her incredible talents. It is therefore only fitting that she be named an honorary starter today and we continue to work for her safe return to the United States.

The development comes amid Griner’s continued detention since February 17, when authorities at an airport outside Moscow said she had vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke to the WNBA star in the four months since his arrest in Moscow [File: Rick Scuteri/AP]

In May, the State Department named Griner as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, who is effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Griner tried to call his wife Cherelle Griner nearly a dozen times through the US Embassy in Russia on their fourth anniversary on Saturday, but they never connected because the phone line from the embassy was unstaffed.

“It was a logistical issue that was compounded in part by the fact that our embassy in Moscow is under significant staffing restrictions,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that the call had been postponed.

Russian state-run Tass news agency reported last week that Griner’s detention had been extended until at least July 2. Another American, Paul Whelan, has been detained in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that he and the US government say are false.

Brittney Griner greeted by fans.
In May, the US State Department named Griner wrongfully detained [File: Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP]

Meanwhile, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson received the most fan votes and were selected as co-captains for the WNBA event. They will be joined by Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who have both announced they will be retiring at the end of the season. Bird will set a record with his 13th All-Star appearance. Fowles, who is currently injured, was selected for her eighth game.

Stewart and Fowles will be paired as co-captains, as will Wilson and Bird, and pick their teams.

League coaches will vote for the 12 reserves and the co-captains will draft their rosters on July 2. The game will take place on July 10 in Chicago with a 3-point competition and a skills challenge the day before.

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