The US players honored their friend and teammate by choosing not to wear the No. 15 mesh. Traditionally, Team USA wears numbers 4 to 15, but instead is reminiscent of a player who has been such an important part of the national team since his first involvement in 2013.
“She is in our thoughts every day and we will honor her,” US manager Cheryl Reeve told ESPN. “Nobody’s going to wear 15. So I’ve just found a way to keep making sure she knows she was meant to be and that our players think about her every day.”
Griner was instrumental in the US team’s dominance in the sport. The WNBA No. 1 draft pick helped the United States win two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup gold medals.
“It’s an important part of our sisterhood,” said Griner’s Olympic teammate Jewell Lloyd. “Getting to know her over the past couple of years has been great. She has been nothing but great for me and my family. And it’s just heartbreaking to know that she is still over there and that she is not here.”
Griner was arrested in February for carrying vaporizer 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 appealed her nine-year sentence.
Griner’s teammates and other WNBA players also showed solidarity with the eight-time All-Star by boycotting the game in Russia during the off-season.
Many WNBA players supplement their off-season salaries by signing up with European clubs, including Russian clubs who reportedly pay up to $ 1 million per season – far more money than players would earn by staying in the United States.
But this winter, players are refusing to sign with Russian teams, opting instead to play for other clubs across Europe.
Breanna Stewart, who played with Griner both on the national team and on the same team as the Russian club, Ekaterinburg, admitted it wasn’t an easy decision.
“Honestly, my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still being unfairly detained there, no one will go there until he is home,” said Seattle Storm striker. “I think we will continue to talk, to continue to amplify his name, to 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 are continuing to move forward to bring her home.
“But I think the best way to represent and honor her is to win the gold medal.”