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Brittney Griner status

Photo by Laurie Shaull via Flickr

The US government reclassified WNBA player Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia as wrongfully detained yesterday, nearly three months after the star was arrested on alleged drug charges. Griner is being held in Russia until at least May 19 after Russian agents claimed to find vape pens with hashish oil in her luggage, a charge that could mean up to 10 years in prison. The change means the special envoy of hostage affairs will take over the case and take targeted steps to negotiate her release, without waiting for the case to go through Russian courts.

Separately, the WNBA announced Griner’s initials and jersey number will be displayed on all courts this season, which begins Friday. Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, is a two-time gold medalist and seven-time WNBA all-star.

The news comes a week after the US carried out a prisoner swap with Russia for jailed Marine Trevor Reed.