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This Week in Women’s Basketball: President Biden to meet with the Griner family

While the Phoenix Mercury star’s family works to secure Brittney Griner’s release, her WNBA team is in the midst of internal turmoil.


President Joe Biden is meeting with Brittney Griner’s family

Earlier this week former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson had a meeting with Brittney Griner’s family about her ongoing detention in Russia. At a press conference, Richardson noted that he was hoping to secure a two-for-two prisoner exchange with Russian authorities, freeing both Griner and Paul Whelan.

On Thursday, September 15, the White House announced that President Joe Biden will meet with the families of both Griner and Whelan. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained, “He wanted to let them know that they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day on making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely.” This is the first time Biden has met with Griner’s family about her status, which the White House has described as wrongfully detained.

WNBA announces first international preseason game since 2011

Cathy Engelbert thrilled international WNBA fans when she announced there will be a preseason game in Canada in 2023. Engelbert explained that the time is ripe, as the WNBA is only growing in both domestic and international popularity. As she explained, “As WNBA games currently air in 207 countries and territories, we know there’s a great appetite to see WNBA action live, and we are looking forward to bringing the W to our fans across the globe.”

Engelbert also noted that the WNBA has finalized its expansion search to 10 cities before adding, “We’re going to continue to work on that hard and hopefully, can announce expansion over the next couple years.”

Puma inks a deal with Flau’jae Johnson

Flau’jae Johnson, an 18-year-old rap artist and basketball player, has signed a deal with Puma. Johnson was a high school All-American and is currently playing her freshman year at Louisiana State University. Johnson will be working with the brand for years, taking advantage of recent changes made in NIL rules.

Johnson explained, “They were very intrigued not only [about] basketball, but my music side too. That was really important to me, because some people try to box you in. Puma was like, ‘Ain’t no box. Ain’t no cage.’”

Robert Sarver is suspended for one year and ordered to pay $10 million

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver has been suspended from both leagues for a year and told to pay $10 million following an investigation into racist and sexist conduct and complaints against him. The NBA noted that Sarver “cooperated fully with the investigative process” but that he did not believe he deserved the suspension and fine.

The investigation concluded in part that Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policies.”

Rachel Banham returns to the University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen announced that Rachel Banham has joined the team’s staff as its new Director of Quality Control. Whalen said, “Today I am excited to announce Gopher great Rachel Banham as our Director of Quality Control. As the top scorer in our conference’s history and seven years of experience in the WNBA, including three in Minnesota, I can’t think of a more perfect match for our staff. Rachel personifies our program standards and I know she is going to be the perfect fit for this role with our team.”