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Phoenix Mercury, WNBA hold shoe drive to honor Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner drives on Amanda Zahui B. during a game between the Mercury and Sparks. (Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury and other WNBA teams are announcing dates for the Heart and Sole shoe drives that will take place in all 12 WNBA markets this season.

This comes as the Mercury and the WNBA work to help bring Brittney Griner home safely from Russia. Griner has been detained in the country since February.

“The most important thing is that our friend and teammate is healthy and safe. We remain hopeful in the efforts underway to bring her home, and we are grateful for the outpouring of concern we have received,” Mercury president Vince Kozar said in a statement. “As we await her return, WNBA teams are collectively committing to serve the community in ways that BG would if she were here.

“In Phoenix, we are launching the fifth season of BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, an initiative she founded in 2016 and cares about very deeply. BG has always led with her heart and in her absence it’s our duty to do good in her name. We invite you to help in any way you can.”

Every team in the league has committed to the initiative as a show of support for Griner. The Heart and Sole Shoe Drive was founded by Griner in 2016 when she was driving home from practice and saw those in the Arizona summer heat without shoes. At the time, she drove around with shoes in her trunk to help.

Eventually, her work grew into a full shoe drive, with the Mercury and Griner partnering with the Phoenix Rescue Mission, giving nearly 2,000 Phoenix residents shoes from 2016-2019. The shoe drive is making its return this year after pausing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mercury’s first opportunity for donations will take place Thursday, April 28, during the team’s preseason game against the Seattle Storm.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Monday that the activations are “intended to remind us of BG’s spirit of giving and do the work she’d be doing if she were here.

“And certainly the work she will join us in when she returns.”