WNBA Stars Turn Focus to Brittney Griner During League's All-Star Weekend: 'It's Hard for All of Us'

Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February 17, was named an honorary 2022 WNBA All-Star

WNBA all-stars wore Brittney Griner's jersey during the game
WNBA All-Stars wear Brittney Griner's no. 42.

The WNBA took over Chicago this weekend for the league's All-Star weekend, but in between celebrating the best and brightest in women's basketball, the focus of the weekend was on detained WNBA star, Brittney Griner.

"Yeah, every now and then we'll answer questions about All-Star and talk about basketball, but you're going to see her name on the back of all of our shirts," Sue Bird told reporters during a press conference. "We want it to always be there."

Bird, a 12-time WNBA all-star, has been a vocal advocate for Griner's return since the 31-year-old athlete was arrested in Russia on February 17. "We just want to always keep BG's name at the forefront in everything we do," says Bird.

Mentions of Griner, who was named an honorary all-star by the league, were incorporated into the weekend at every turn.

The Mercury star's name and number 42 were displayed on the court, and all of the all-stars donned Griner's jersey for the second half of Sunday's game.

"We talk about 'We Are BG' and what that means to us," said Griner's Phoenix Mercury teammate, Skylar Diggins-Smith. "Just trying to embody her spirit, carry her legacy on and just stay alert for her as far as what we can do in our efforts to help bring her home and really get that message out there."

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"I think the W does a great job," Arike Ogunbowale, guard for the Dallas Wings, says of the WNBA. "We have Brittney Griner masks, we have 42 on our shirts and I'm sure the rest of the league and people are wearing things with BG."

Ogunbowale told reporters that bringing Griner home is the "No. 1 priority."

RELATED VIDEO: Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Russian Drug Charges: 'I Did Not Want to Break the Law'

WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert addressed the league's concern for Griner's safe return during her press conference on Sunday. "I really want to just start and just reiterate, obviously, we're thinking of Brittney Griner at this time."

"She remains a huge priority for us, continues to have our full support," said Engelbert.

The show of support for Griner throughout the weekend was powerful, and something Las Vegas Aces star A'ja Wilson says is exemplary of the WNBA as a league. "Like we say, we are the most unified league in the world, honestly," Wilson, 25, said.

"It's hard. It's hard for all of us," Wilson said after Sunday's game. "It's not easy. Not a day goes by that I'm not thinking about Brittney Griner. So wearing her jersey and letting the world know we are not whole without her, I think that's a statement in itself."

WNBA all-stars wore Brittney Griner's jersey during the game
WNBA All-Star Game 2022.

"When we are playing on ABC and ESPN, showing that it's real and understanding that we are not going to stop until everyone understands how serious this really is," said Wilson.

She continued, "Wearing the jerseys was a statement to show that we are BG. Yes, we have the shirts and the pins but BG is one of us. She's our sister and at the end of the day we are going to do whatever we can to amplify the platform that we have to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to do to make sure that she gets home safely."

Griner's trial in Russia began on July 1, and on Thursday the WNBA star pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into the country. She faces up to 10 years if she is convicted.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE Thursday, Brittney's legal team — Maria Blagovolina from Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Alexander Boykov from Moscow Legal Center — says her plea "was her decision informed by discussion with her legal defense team in Russia."

Her lawyers say that because of "the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG's personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport," they are hopeful that her plea will help the athlete avoid a "severe sentence."

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