Report: Brittney Griner to Be Honored by WNBA with Decal on Every Team's Home Court

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 2, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 06: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is seen during the game against the Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on September 6, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The WNBA will honor Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner with a floor decal that will be displayed throughout the 2022 season, according to ESPN's Josh Weinfuss.

The design will include Griner's initials and her jersey number (No. 42).

The seven-time All-Star remains detained in Russia, having been taken into custody in February after customs officials said she was carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil through airport security.

TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency, reported in March that Griner was due to remain in custody until at least May 19. ESPN's T.J. Quinn spoke with Tom Firestone, a former legal adviser for the U.S. embassy in Moscow, and he said Griner could remain in Russia for as many as 12 to 18 months before she's put on trial.

Firestone laid out to Quinn and Mechelle Voepel of ESPN how her situation was especially delicate given the politics at play:

"Sometimes cases like this are better off handled in a low-key approach through the criminal justice system. I think the concern is, if it becomes too high-profile, if it becomes political, then the Russian government may dig into their position. It may make it difficult for her to get a good resolution of the case, and she could become a pawn in a bigger political battle."

The New York Times' Kurt Streeter reported that players around the WNBA have been purposefully mum on the matter on the advice of those close to Griner, "who have determined it best to let behind-the-scenes diplomacy work."

Mercury guard Kia Nurse offered her perspective to Streeter.

"We are absolutely outspoken about everything that we can possibly be," she said. "But we are also very good at admitting that we don't know everything, and we are not the experts on every topic."

The WNBA's gesture to honor Griner may not receive universal acclaim because her arrest has once again called attention to how many of the league's top stars play elsewhere for financial reasons.

"One of the narratives that the players have to go overseas is a little bit outdated and inaccurate," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters on April 11.

Minnesota Lynx wing Aerial Powers offered a counter when she told Voepel, "We go over there to make a living."

The Arizona Republic's Jeff Metcalfe reported in March 2017 that Griner was earning around $1 million by suiting up for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg. While the most recent collective bargaining agreement raised player salaries across the board, Griner's supermax contract guarantees her around a quarter ($227,900) of what she makes overseas.

Connecticut Sun star and reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones also made it clear she'll continue to play year-round.

"I'm going to have to deal with it," she said to ESPN's Alexa Philippou. "Because I feel like while the league is making the right and necessary strides to pay us more and ensure that if we don't want to go overseas, we don't have to, I just feel like in my situation, the money is not comparable."

The WNBA's gesture toward Griner—while well-intentioned—will likely again raise questions about what else the league is doing to address the underlying problems that allowed this to happen in the first place.