Sports world reacts to Brittney Griner’s Russian prison release originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Brittney Griner’s 294-day detainment in Russia has finally come to an end.
The 32-year-old WNBA star was released to the United States in a prisoner swap on Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed. This comes four months after Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling charges.
Griner – who, for years, had played in the off-season for a Russian women’s basketball team, the UMMC Ekaterinburg – was first detained in February and remained in custody for seven months before finally being sentenced. But now, Griner is back in U.S. custody and on her way home to her hometown of Texas.
The sports world was filled with joy when the news of Griner’s release broke and many took to social media to share their relief and excitement:
Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, and fellow teammates shared their reactions to her release:
Other WNBA stars also added their support for Griner’s release:
American basketball Hall of Fame player and coach Dawn Staley was one of Griner’s biggest supporters and heavily advocated for her release over the past months:
Griner’s wife Cherelle spoke at the White House following the news of Griner’s release.
“For the last nine months you all have been so privy for one of the darkest moments of my life,” Cherelle said at the White House. “Today my family is whole, but as you’re all aware, there are so many families that are not whole. [Brittney] and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul.”
The “Paul” Cherelle refers to is Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and arrested on espionage charges. President Biden has attempted to include Whelan in the swap but it was not accepted by the Russian government.
“We never forgot about Brittney. We haven’t forgotten about Paul Whelan,” Biden said about Whelan. “While we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we have not given up. We will never give up.”
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons took to Twitter to speak on Griner’s release and his shock that Whelan was not released as well, but it was met with disappointment from many on social media:
He later cleared up his previous tweet and added that he is happy Griner is home but his initial tweet was tweeted “out of emotion” for his family that has served.
Many sports analysts tweeted their support for Griner as well:
Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama also added their thoughts:
There currently aren’t plans as to whether Griner will return to UMMC Ekaterinburg, but the focus is currently on her safe return home.
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