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WNBA star Brittney Griner recognized as honorary All-Star amid Russian detainment

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The WNBA has announced it will honor Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, who is currently detained in Russia, as an honorary All-Star for its upcoming All-Star exhibition game. 

In a statement on Wednesday, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said it was the right move to give Griner this honor as the league continues to work on her release from Moscow, saying that if Griner were present for the season, she would likely earn an All-Star selection and “no doubt, show off her incredible talents.” 

Griner, an Olympic gold medalist, was named a WNBA All-Star in seven of her prior seasons in the league. 

“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said in a statement. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”

It’s been over 100 days since Griner’s initial detainment in Russia, when she was arrested by Moscow authorities for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hashish oil with her at an airport.

The league’s announcement comes as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview that Griner isn’t a “hostage,” saying that the 2014 WNBA champion violated laws in the country that led to arrest and detainment. 

“It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws,” Peskov told NBC News’s senior international correspondent Keir Simmons in an exclusive interview. 

Griner, who was classified by the State Department as wrongfully detained in May, had her detention in the country extended several times over the past three months. Her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, has been briefed by State Department officials about her status.

The WNBA has been vocal about its support for bringing Griner back to U.S. soil and shared plans earlier this year to honor her throughout this season with a floor decal featuring her initials and jersey number, 42, on the courts of all twelve league franchises.

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