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Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

Brittney Griner plans return to WNBA and thanks Biden on release from medical facility

Brittney Griner plans return to WNBA and thanks Biden on release from medical facility

Brittney Griner has left the Texas army facility where she was undergoing evaluation following her release from 10 months of detention in Russia
Brittney Griner has left the Texas army facility where she was undergoing physical and mental evaluation following her release from 10 months of detention in Russia.

The basketball star had been staying at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after US officials secured her freedom last week in a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“It feels so good to be home,” said Griner in a statement released on Friday. “The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

The double Olympic champion was arrested in February at an airport outside Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison, and was transferred to one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies, where former inmates have described torture, harsh beatings and slave labor conditions.

In her statement on Friday, Griner thanked her family, legal team, teammates and fellow WNBA players. She also acknowledged Joe Biden’s part in her freedom and said she hoped for the release of Paul Whelan, the former US Marine who has served almost four years of a 16-year sentence in Russia for alleged spying. The Biden administration had been criticized by some Republicans for securing the release of Griner while Whelan remains in Russia.

“President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you,” said Griner in her statement. “I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”

Griner had travelled to Russia during the WNBA offseason to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg. The 32-year-old, one of the best basketball players in the world, said she has every intention of returning to play for the Phoenix Mercury for the new WNBA season, which starts in May.

“I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” she said.
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