The Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun took the court Thursday in an emotional matchup following news of Brittney Griner’s conviction by a Russian court.
The two teams met at half court for 42 seconds in recognition of Griner’s jersey number.
Two teams, one mission: Bring her home 💜#FreeBG|@PhoenixMercury pic.twitter.com/JbULLNahYa— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 5, 2022
Two teams, one mission: Bring her home 💜#FreeBG|@PhoenixMercury pic.twitter.com/JbULLNahYa
Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison Thursday after being found guilty of drug smuggling charges by a Russian court.
Diplomatic efforts to secure Griner’s release are expected to ramp up following the guilty verdict. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Russian official Sergey Lavrov about a deal in which Griner and Paul Whelan would be exchanged for a Russian prisoner.
Griner was clearly on the mind of her Mercury teammates and the rest of the league Thursday, with the WNBA honoring the star as regular-season competition continued.
“So proud of my team today,” Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith Tweeted after the game. “You have no idea.”
Diggins-Smith grew emotional in the team’s post-game press conference, saying that questions on the situation “add to our trauma.”
“It’s our sister,” Diggins-Smith said. “This is not anything we’re politicizing. This is a human being, and this is our real-life friend and our real-life sister.
“Nobody even wanted to play today,” Diggins-Smith continued. “How are you supposed to approach the game, approach the court with a clear mind, and the whole group is crying before the game because you try to honor her, and you try to come out and still play hard for her.”
Connecticut coach Curt Miller also addressed the emotionally taxing night in a Twitter post following the game, writing “My summary of our game vs PHX. 2 teams closely connected to BG navigating raw & genuine emotions throughout the game all while being on Tv.”
In his post, Miller revealed that he also lost his mother earlier in the day, adding to the already palpable emotions.
“Losing my Mom earlier in the day & trying to honor her only added to one tough day. Love & Respect these players,” Miller wrote.