They celebrate in the US the release and return of Brittney Griner

They celebrate in the US the release and return of Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner’s loved ones and the United States women’s basketball team were overjoyed Thursday at the news that the player had been released from prison in Russia and was on her way back to her country.

Nearly 300 days have passed since the US women’s basketball star was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where customs agents said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis extract in her luggage.

In August, Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison. Now, four months later, she is traveling back after the United States and Russia staged a high-level prisoner exchange on Thursday.

The swap did not include another American, Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years.

“Today, my family is complete, but as you all know, not many other families are,” Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said during a White House news conference.

“BG and I will remain committed to working to bring home all Americans, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today as we celebrate BG at home.”

Griner, who turned 32 in October, was returning to Russia in February to play for the UMKC team from Yekaterinburg. For playing in Russia, she earned more than a million dollars on top of her pay in the WNBA, the professional women’s basketball league in the United States.

“There hasn’t been a day in the last 10 months that we haven’t had Brittney Griner on our minds and our hearts, and it has all turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, with the gaming community of the WNBA and their friends,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. She added that she was overcome with emotion when she heard the news in the morning.

“BG has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity,” he said.

Although it is currently unknown if Griner wants to play basketball again, both the WNBA and USA Basketball – the governing body of the US women’s team – are willing to welcome her with open arms.

“It’s been a long and horrible ordeal, we really look forward to his return and hearing his voice,” Engelbert said.

The coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina, Dawn Staley, was a strong supporter of Griner’s repatriation.

Staley, who managed Griner on the 2020 Olympic team, thinks getting back on the court could help the center, who is a dominant player at her position.

Staley said she shed tears of joy upon learning of Griner’s release.

Like Staley, WNBA players did everything they could to keep Griner’s name in the national spotlight over the past eight months, whether it was mentioning her in interviews or on their social media.

“My heart is overflowing with joy. Our sister is finally free,” said WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike. “This is a great moment for everyone who has shown compassion for our WNBA sister in the last 294 days since her GB was wrongfully detained.”

Griner is contracted to the Phoenix Mercury women’s team, which the women’s league allowed to pay her her full $228,000 salary last season without counting against her salary cap.

His club expressed its excitement at the return to the country of its eight-time All-Star Game nominee.

“Miraculously and fortunately, her days in detention have ended at 294, and our friend, sister, is coming back to the country where she belongs,” the Mercury said in a statement.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said that “BG and our coalition of athlete activists” will raise their voices to help free other Americans detained abroad, like Whelan.

“Throughout this ordeal, BG conducted herself with courage, grace and determination; President Biden had made us a promise and kept his word, he did what was necessary to bring her back to the country,” Colas said in a statement.

“We are entirely grateful to him for having fulfilled that commitment,” he said.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.