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Brittney Griner’s Ordeal In Russia Weighs On Minds Of Teammates


Brittney Griner’s Ordeal In Russia Weighs On Minds Of Teammates

PHOENIX (AP) — Whereas the observe facility for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was stuffed with laughter and the echoes of bouncing basketballs in the course of the staff’s preseason exercise, there was no denying the presence and spirit of 6-foot-9 heart Brittney Griner was lacking.

“I positively get up in the midst of the night time generally, worrying about BG,” first-year Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard mentioned.

“BG” is among the nicknames for Griner, who remains in Russia after being detained following her arrival at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities mentioned a search of her baggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from hashish, which might carry a most penalty of 10 years in jail.

“We’ve simply received to maintain praying for her,” Mercury teammate Sophie Cunningham mentioned. “We hope she’s properly. That’s all we all know, you guys know as a lot as we do. Nobody needs to be in her state of affairs. We miss her like loopy.”

The 2-time Olympic gold medalist lately had her detention extended to May 19.

Her arrest got here at a time of heightened political tensions over Ukraine. Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine and stays at battle.

Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi, who additionally has performed in Russia, mentioned Monday afternoon that the delicate nature of Griner’s state of affairs — being performed out on a diplomatic stage slightly than a basketball court docket — has made issues much more tough.

Taurasi and Cunningham wish to present their assist — verbal and in any other case — however understand their phrases carry weight. No person needs to say something that would probably complicate the state of affairs.

“I spent 10 years there, so I understand how issues work,” Taurasi mentioned. “It’s delicate.”

Griner’s ordeal continues as WNBA groups opened preseason camp Sunday and Monday. The WNBA is also taking a cautious strategy in its assist of Griner, although Commissioner Kathy Engelbert mentioned there will be a league-wide charity initiative spearheaded by the Mercury to support Griner’s philanthropic project, known as BG’s Coronary heart and Sole Shoe Drive.

Cunningham harassed her issues are about Griner the particular person and never about how the state of affairs impacts the Mercury’s season.

“It’s BG, there’s nobody like her in the entire world,” Cunningham mentioned. “We positively miss her, but it surely’s not even about basketball anymore. We simply need her to be properly as a human being. She has a giant stage, lots of people know her, so we would like her to be on the court docket.

“Everybody who loves her simply needs her to be residence secure.”

Griner, one of many top WNBA players who play in Russia during the league’s offseason, was returning to the nation after the Russian League took a break for the FIBA World Cup qualifying match.

Her detainment in Russia has highlighted why many prime U.S. girls’s basketball gamers really feel the necessity to go abroad to complement their revenue. WNBA salaries have risen lately, however there’s nonetheless ample monetary incentive to play in different international locations in the course of the offseason.

Within the early 2000s, prime WNBA gamers might enhance their incomes to about $125,000 by getting into a advertising take care of the league. At this time, elite gamers can take residence about $500,000 with their salaries, bonuses and WNBA advertising contracts. By enjoying in Russia, nevertheless, they’ll earn one other $1 million to $1.5 million.

Nygaard hopes these monetary disparities will quickly come to an finish.

“I see folks on a regular basis, they’re like ‘Man, I can’t consider they don’t pay these WNBA gamers. I can’t consider they’re underpaid,’” Nygaard mentioned. “Properly, when was the final time you purchased season tickets? When is the final time you purchased gear for WNBA?

“If folks critically care about retaining our athletes over right here and ensuring feminine athletes are paid at the next charge, then they should put their {dollars} behind our league. Help us.”

Griner will not be the one American detained in Russia. Marine veteran Trevor Reed was sentenced to 9 years in jail in 2020 on costs alleging that he assaulted law enforcement officials in Moscow. And Michigan company safety government Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage costs that his household and the U.S. authorities have mentioned are false. U.S. officers have publicly known as for Moscow to launch them.

AP Basketball Author Doug Feinberg contributed to this story.

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