Brittney Griner was smiling ear to ear when she returned to the basketball court for the first time ever since she was retained in a Russian prison.
In February 2022, the Phoenix Mercury star was arrested at a Moscow airport when traces of marijuana were found in her suitcase. Although she was prescribed the vape cartridges legally in Arizona, the substance is illegal in Russia. Following her trial in July, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While she served her sentence, the United States federal government was attempting to strike up a prisoner swap with Russia: the US would get Griner back in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year federal sentence. Both countries agreed to the swap, and the basketball player was able to reach American soil in early December.
“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along,” Joe Biden announced in a press release at the time. “This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”
Was Brittney Griner intending to return to the WNBA after her prison release?
Although Griner was back in the United States, many questioned if she would be able to play in the upcoming WNBA season. Considering the traumatic nature of prison, especially overseas, her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas informed the public that the athlete would spend the holidays deciding how to move forward with her career.
“There’s no timeline on her return at this point,” Colas told ESPN. “She’s reintegrating into a world that has changed for her now. From a pure security standpoint, she’s not going to be able to move in the world the way she did.”
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“If she wants to play, it will be for her to share,” the agent continued. “She has the holidays to decide what’s next without any pressure. She’s doing really, really well. She seems to have endured this in pretty incredible ways.”
However, Griner made it clear they would return to the Phoenix Mercury on her Instagram. “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 wrote.
Amazingly, she signed a one-year, $165,100 free-agent contract with her former team, and the first photo of Griner returning to the sport was released earlier this week.
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