Brittney Griner: Team USA players ‘honor’ teammate at FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup



CNN

Team USA’s 87-72 opening game win over Belgium at the Women’s Basketball World Cup was overshadowed by the absence of forward Brittney Griner, who has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for possession of cannabis oil.

The USA players honored their friend and teammate by choosing their jersey no. 15 not to be worn. Traditionally, Team USA wears the numbers four through 15, but instead remembers a player who has been such a big part of the national side since their first involvement in 2013.

“She’s in our thoughts every day, and we’re going to honor her,” U.S. head coach Cheryl Reeve told ESPN. “Nobody’s going to wear 15. So just ways to continue to make sure she knows she’s being thought of and our players are thinking of her every day.”

Griner was central to the US team’s dominance in the sport. The 2013 WNBA No.

“She’s a big part of our sisterhood,” Griner’s Olympic teammate Jewell Lloyd said. “Knowing her over the past couple of years has been amazing. She’s been nothing but amazing to me and my family. And it’s just heartbreaking to know that she’s still there and she’s not here.”

The start of the tournament comes a week after Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, met with U.S. President Joe Biden to plead her wife’s case as the U.S. negotiates the release of the WNBA star and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

Griner was arrested in February for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage and pleaded guilty to drug charges, saying she accidentally packed the drugs in a hurry. Her legal team in Russia has appealed the nine-year sentence.

Griner’s teammates and other WNBA players have also shown solidarity with the eight-time All-Star by boycotting playing in Russia during the offseason.

Many WNBA players supplement their salaries in the offseason by signing with European teams, including Russian teams that reportedly pay more than $1 million per season — far more money than the players would earn by playing in the U.S. staying

WNBA players have so far signed for clubs in Turkey, Italy, Hungary, but have avoided Russian teams.

But this winter, players are refusing to sign with Russian teams, choosing instead to play for other clubs across Europe.

Breanna Stewart, who has played with Griner both for the national team and on the same Russian club team, Yekaterinburg, admitted that it was not an easy decision.

“Honestly, my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still wrongly holding on there, no one is going to go there until she is home,” said the Seattle Storm power forward. “I think we will continue to speak, continue to strengthen their name, put as much pressure on the White House as possible.

“It was great that Cherelle was able to meet President Biden, and hopefully that means things will continue to get her home.

“But I think the best way to represent her and honor her is to go and win the gold medal.”