The WNBA season tipped off on Friday night, but did so without one of its best and most influential players. Her peers ensured that wasn't forgotten.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia after the country's customs officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she makes the bulk of her annual income, out of the international break in February. Russia invaded Ukraine shortly thereafter.
Throughout the day, players posted prayers and thoughts on Twitter in stating it's time for the star to come home. Earlier in the week, the U.S. state department changed Griner's status to "wrongfully detained," meaning the government is now actively seeking her return. It also opened the door for players, teams and the league to make noise about Griner after working to keep it quiet over the past few months as it was in the MVP candidate's best interest.
The Washington Mystics players were the first to issue a statement as a team after their season-opening win against the Indiana Fever. They played the first game in the night and players, particularly Elena Delle Donne, know Griner from winning gold medals with Team USA.
Natasha Cloud, one of the league's most outspoken advocates, read the statement from the locker room with her team around her:
"It has been 78 days since our friend, teammate, sister Brittney Griner has wrongfully been detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. Know that we are watching, we are paying attention. We are BG."
— Andscape (@andscape) May 7, 2022
The Mercury honored their star with T-shirts featuring her initials and jersey number.
Sandy Brondello, the former Mercury head coach, was asked about her after the New York Liberty's opening win at Barclays Center on Saturday night. Brondello, who coached Griner all but one of the star's nine seasons, grew emotional talking about "part of my family."
The Liberty snap the Sun's nine-game win streak against them with tonight's win at Barclays 81-79. Sab leads the way with 25, Howard adds 16, and Whitcomb 15. Before the win, Coach Brondello paid homage to Brittney Griner. (q: @ClassicJpow )#FreeBrittneyGriner #perspective pic.twitter.com/x8dgScC1FI
— Gigi Speer (@gigi_speer) May 8, 2022
And players around the league mentioned her in social media posts on Friday ahead of opening night with the same meaning as the Mystics group words.
heading to shoot around this morning and had to take a moment for a quick prayer. It has been 78 days since BG was wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. Now. #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/VqZsHSGQVC
Excited for all the former @BaylorWBB players to start their @WNBA season and/or career tonight! But one key Bear is missing. 🙏 for BG. It’s been 78 days since she was wrongfully detained in Russia. Let’s get her HOME! pic.twitter.com/UiK9VHIgXa
— Nicki Collen (@NickiCollen) May 6, 2022
It has been 78 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse, we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG
“It’s going to be really sad to have the season begin tomorrow and Brittney (Griner) not be here.” Elena Delle Donne joins NBA Today: pic.twitter.com/O3nhwm4JDq
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 5, 2022
The WNBA Players Association (WNBPA) account asked that all start the day thinking of Griner. The MLS Players Association posted in solidarity around the time of first tip.
— MLSPA (@MLSPA) May 6, 2022
There is a "BG 42" decal on all 12 WNBA courts and every market is hosting a "Heart and Sole Shoe Drive" activation to honor Griner. The event was launched by Griner and the Mercury hosted the fifth annual one in April while Griner remained detained.