Joe Biden on Brittney Griner’s release: “She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home.”
After being detained and then imprisoned in Russia since February, WNBA star Brittney Griner is finally coming home. Following a prisoner exchange with Russia, Griner is heading home to Texas to reunite with her wife Cherelle, and her parents. The deal involved swapping Griner for infamous Russian Arms dealer Viktor Bout known as the “Merchant of Death.” Another American, Paul Whelan, is still imprisoned in Russia, after being arrested nearly four years ago.
President Joe Biden’s administration and the State Department worked to get Griner home during months of negotiations.
“It took painstaking and intense negotiations, and I want to thank all the hardworking public servants across my administration who worked tirelessly to secure her release,” Biden said in a White House presser announcing Griner’s freedom. “I also want to thank the UAE for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return, because that’s where she landed.”
Russian authorities detained Griner in February at an airport near Moscow after they said they found hashish oil in her luggage. The Phoenix Mercury center was entering the country to play basketball during the WNBA offseason. After detention and a trial, a Russian Court sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. She began her sentence around Nov. 17.
“I’m glad to be able to say that Brittney is in good spirits,” Biden said. “She’s relieved to finally be heading home. And the fact remains that she’s lost months of her life, experienced a needless trauma, and she deserves space, privacy, and time with her loved ones to recover and heal from her time being wrongfully detained.”
Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials also attended the White House presser along with Cherelle.
WNBA Commissioner’s Reaction
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert issued the following statement regarding Griner soon after the news broke.
“There has not been a day over the past ten months where we all haven’t had Brittney Griner on our minds and in our hearts and that has now turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, the WNBA player community, and her friends. BG has shown extraordinary courage…