Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith questioned why the WNBA proceeded with Thursday's game against the Connecticut Sun, which took place just hours after Mercury center Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges in Russia.
"Nobody wanted to even play today," Diggins-Smith told reporters. "How are you supposed to approach the game with a clear mind when the whole group is crying before the game?"
The WNBA released a statement in coordination with a moment of silence between the teams:
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreBG</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/PhoenixMercury?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PhoenixMercury</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/ConnecticutSun?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ConnecticutSun</a> <a href="https://t.co/O2BSkbsaZw">pic.twitter.com/O2BSkbsaZw</a>
Diggins-Smith explained there was a profound impact on the players following the news.
"This is our real-life friend, real-life sister," she said. "Imagine if your real-life friend or real-life sister is out here. I don't expect everybody to give a damn, but we really do. And we come out here and we're still supposed to play this game."
The Sun won the contest, 77-64.
Griner has been detained in Russia for 169 days since she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
In May, the U.S State Department classified her as wrongfully detained.
United States President Joe Biden released a statement after Thursday's verdict:
CNN and multiple other outlets have reported the U.S. proposed a prison swap that would include Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, but the White House stated Russia responded with a "bad faith" counteroffer.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Griner's sentence "compounds the injustice" she's faced.
"It puts a spotlight on our very significant turn with Russia's legal system and the Russian government's use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns," Blinken told reporters Friday.
Griner has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia since 2014 as one of several WNBA players who compete overseas during the offseason for supplemental income.
She's starred for the Mercury stateside with eight All-Star selections, two scoring titles and a WNBA championship in 2014.