All About Women’s Sports: Brittney Griner is Back in the United States

By Claire Guest

After nearly 10 months in Russian prisons, Brittney Griner has returned to the United States. The 32-year-old WNBA star had been detained in Russia on drug charges since February. She was convicted and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison in August 2022. 

The Biden Administration negotiated with Russia for a prisoner swap, which consisted of Russia releasing Griner in exchange for the United States releasing Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer. 

Griner was arrested on Feb. 17 for allegedly possessing less than one gram of hashish oil. A typical sentence for possessing less than 6 grams of cannabis is 15 days in jail or less. Griner was detained for 294 days, with the threat of almost nine more years prior to the prisoner swap.

The seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist had played for the Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason since 2015, which explains her presence in Russia at the time of her arrest.

Photo Credit: Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP

The women’s basketball community took an active role in advocating for Griner’s freedom, as many players and coaches brought attention to social media or even their warm-up gear. Countless other groups showed support for Griner as well, such as the NWSL whose players wore “We are BG” shirts, and women and men throughout the sports and entertainment worlds.

Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces coach, called more attention to Griner’s predicament as she said: “If this was LeBron James, is LeBron James still sitting over there? I don’t think so,” Hammon said. “And that’s the unfortunate part about all of this.”

Big names such as Billie Jean King, Dawn Staley and Breanna Stewart all took to their social media to celebrate Griner’s return to the United States after a long, hard emotional and physical journey apart from her friends, family, and home.

As of Friday, Griner announced her plan to play basketball for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2023. The Phoenix Mercury made it clear they will be welcoming her back with open arms, as they will begin their season soon. 

After 10 months of playing no basketball, Griner picked up a basketball and her first move was a dunk. Brittney Griner is home.