NEW YORK (AP) — Brittney Griner will have a spot in the WNBA All-Star Game, being named the honorary starter Wednesday by commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17 after authorities at an airport outside Moscow said she had vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.
“In every season of Brittney’s career that there was an All-Star Game, she was selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said. “It’s not hard to imagine that if BG were there with us this season, she would be selected again and would no doubt show off her incredible talents, so it’s only fitting that she is named an honorary starter today and we continue to work on his safe return to the United States.”
In May, the State Department named Griner as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, who is effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Russian state-run Tass news agency reported last week that Griner’s detention had been extended until at least July 2. Another American, Paul Whelan, has been detained in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that he and the US government say are false.
Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson received the most fan votes and were selected as co-captains for the event. They will be joined by Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who have both announced they will be retiring at the end of the season. Bird will set a record with his 13th All-Star appearance. Fowles, who is currently injured, was selected for her eighth game.
Stewart and Fowles will be paired as co-captains, as will Wilson and Bird, and choose their teams.
Joining Wilson, Stewart and Fowles in the frontcourt are Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike and Chicago’s Candace Parker. The starting guards, in addition to Bird, are New York’s Sabrina Ionescu and her Las Vegas teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young.
“For icons like Sylvia and Sue to be voted into the AT&T WNBA All-Star Game as starters in their 15th and 19th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” Engelbert said. “And when you see the star-studded starting rosters for the first time like Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, it only seems fitting that Sylvia and Sue – who said this will be their last season – are joining A’ja and Breanna as co-captains for an All-Star event that will in some ways symbolize the passing of the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”
The starters were chosen by a combination of fan, media and player votes.
League coaches will vote for the 12 reserves and the co-captains will draft their rosters on July 2. The game will take place on July 10 in Chicago with a 3-point competition and a skills challenge the day before.