Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Brittney Griner freed

Share this Post:
Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters
Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian penal colony and is on her way home, announced the White House Thursday, December 8. The two-time Olympic medalist, who was arrested at Sheremetyevo airport for possession of less than a gram of cannabis vape oil in February, was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a former Soviet Army lieutenant and arms dealer nicknamed "The Merchant of Death."

President Joe Biden greets Cherelle Griner following the release of her wife Brittney Griner on Dec. 8, 2022, in the Oval Office — Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz  

"She's safe, she's on a plane, she's on her way home," said President Biden in an announcement from the White House. Biden was joined by Griner's wife, Cherelle.

"Today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there's so many families that are not whole," said Cherelle Griner in her remarks on the release of her wife. "BG and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul [Whelan], whose family is in our hearts today..."

Viktor Bout is escorted by members of a special police unit after a hearing at a criminal court in Bangkok October 5, 2010 — Photo by Sukree Sukplang / Reuters  

The Biden administration has received criticism for exchanging Bout for Griner over Whelan, who has been in Russian custody since 2018 on charges of espionage that the US government have called a "sham." US officials have stated that Russia was only willing to negotiate for Griner's release due to the nature of the charges alleged against the corporate security executive. Prior to the announcement Thursday morning, the White House had openly expressed their intention to bring both Griner and Whelan back to American soil.

"This is a gift to Vladimir Putin, and it endangers American lives," tweeted House 
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "Leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable."

"We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul's release," said Biden.

Brittney Griner, stands listening to a verdict in a courtroom in Khimki just outside Moscow on Aug. 2, 2022 — Photo by Evgenia Novozhenina / Reuters  

Griner's wrongful detainment in a country historically hostile to the LGBTQ+ community, her status as an openly Gay Black woman and eight-time All-Star athlete, and the harsh, seemingly histrionic 9-year prison sentence she was facing made her case one that has grabbed national attention for months. Prior to the Biden administration's deal, Griner had been moved to IK-2, a penal colony in Mordovia which is widely considered to be the harshest in the Russian prison system.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert issued a statement lauding Brittney Griner's integrity in the face of turmoil. "BG has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity. The WNBA is grateful beyond measure to the Biden Administration, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and all those who played a role in bringing BG home today," she said.

The prisoner exchange took place Thursday morning in the United Arab Emirates. Shortly after the exchange, Breanna Stewart, a teammate of Griner's, tweeted "BG is FREE!!! 294 days and she is coming home!!!" "BG IS FREE" and "#WEAREBG" were, at press time, trending on Twitter as fans, friends, and family alike enthusiastically awaited Brittney Griner's return to the States.