The WNBA is planning to honor Brittney Griner across the league this season.
Each team will have a special floor decal to honor the Phoenix Mercury star, who is still in jail in Russia, according to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss. The decal will feature No. 42, Griner’s number, and the initials BG. The league announced the news on Tuesday morning.
“As we begin the 2022 season, we are keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a league release. “We continue to work on bringing Brittney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time.”
The league also confirmed the Mercury will be granted roster and salary cap relief so they can carry another player until Griner returns home and is ready to play. The seven-time All-Star will be paid her full salary, the league said.
Griner, 31, was arrested more than two months ago after officials allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. She is under investigation for the large-scale transportation of drugs, and could face up to 10 years in prison in Russia if she’s convicted.
The U.S. government reclassified her status on Tuesday as "wrongfully detained" by the Russian government, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg.
She was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she supplements her WNBA income with a salary up to 10 times that of her domestic league. She is due to make $227,900 — slightly less than the 2022 supermax — in the final year of her core contract. The Mercury have eight players signed to contracts (excluding training camp and draftees) and have $216,623 in cap room, per Her Hoop Stats. The salary cap is $1.379 million this year.
Griner is expected to appear in court again on May 19. Many experts have described Griner as a “high-profile hostage” for Russia, and think she can be used as a bargaining chip for the country amid its invasion of Ukraine and larger issues with the west.
Griner averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season, her ninth with the Mercury, while leading the franchise to the WNBA Finals. She finished second in the league in scoring and first in both blocks and field goals made.
The Mercury are set to open the WNBA season on Friday, where they’ll host the Las Vegas Aces. The team will obviously do so without Griner, who in all likelihood will be unavailable all season.