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WNBA star Brittney Griner recognized as honorary All-Star amid Russian detainment

FILE – Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner (42) shoots against Chicago Sky’s Azura Stevens (30) during the first half of Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago. Brittney Griner has been able to receive emails and letters from WNBA players to an account Griner’s agent set up to allow them to communicate with her. The emails are printed out and delivered sporadically in bunches to Griner by her lawyers after being vetted by Russian officials. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

The WNBA has announced it will honor Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, who is currently detained in Russia, as an honorary All-Star for its upcoming All-Star exhibition game. 

In a statement on Wednesday, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said it was the right move to give Griner this honor as the league continues to work on her release from Moscow, adding that if Griner were present for the All-Star festivities, she would “no doubt, show off her incredible talents.” 

Griner, an Olympic gold medalist, has been named a WNBA All-Star in each of her seven seasons in the league. 

“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said in a statement. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”

The league’s announcement comes shortly after Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview that Griner isn’t a “hostage,” adding that the 2014 WNBA champion violated laws in the country that led to her arrest and detainment. 

It’s been more than 100 days since Griner’s initial detainment in Russia, when she was arrested by Moscow authorities for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hashish oil with her at an airport.

“It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws,” Peskov told NBC News’s senior international correspondent Keir Simmons in an exclusive interview. 

Griner, who was classified by the State Department as wrongfully detained in May, has had her detention in the country extended several times over the past three months. And the Phoenix Mercury — her WNBA team — has been briefed by State Department officials about her status.

The WNBA has been vocal about its support for bringing Griner back to U.S. soil, sharing plans earlier this year to honor her throughout this season with a floor decal featuring her initials and jersey number, 42, on the courts of all 12 league franchises.

Tags Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Cathy Engelbert Cathy Engelbert Dmitry Peskov Moscow Pheonix Mercury Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Russian detention WNBA WNBA

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