‘Today feels like a holiday’: WNBA, NFL and tennis stars react to Brittney Griner’s release

The Guardian
The Guardian
Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since the start of 2022.

Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian jail was welcomed by her fellow athletes on Thursday morning.

The basketball star’s release was agreed after a prisoner swap involving Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who had been detained in America for 12 years. Griner was serving a nine-year sentence for bringing a small amount of cannabis oil into Russia. She says the cannabis was for personal use.

Brittney Griner is free!

After 294 days in Russian captivity, @POTUS negotiated a "one-for-one" prisoner swap.

Thank you to President Biden, and to all those who worked so hard to secure her freedom.

— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 8, 2022

“After 294 days in Russian captivity, @POTUS negotiated a ‘one-for-one’ prisoner swap. Thank you to President Biden, and to all those who worked so hard to secure her freedom,” wrote tennis champion and human rights campaigner Billie Jean King.

Former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III also welcomed the news. “Brittney Griner is finally coming home! THANK GOD! So happy for her and her family,” he wrote.

Chiney Ogwumike, who combines her WNBA career with work as an ESPN basketball analyst, said the release was “the best news to start our day with”. She added that there is still work to do for other Americans detained in Russia, particularly former US Marine Paul Whelan.

“Absolutely loved that [Griner’s wife] Cherelle said that today our family is whole, but she and BG will continue to advocate to help bring others wrongfully detained including Paul Whelan home,” she tweeted.

A host of other former and current WNBA players welcomed the news, including Swin Cash, Tiffany Mitchell, Erica Wheeler, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Bridget Carleton. “Today feels like a holiday!” wrote Wheeler.

Not everyone in the sports world praised the deal though. Bout has been nicknamed “The Merchant of Death” and journalist and podcaster Jason Whitlock referenced Herschel Walker’s trade from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989. The trade is considered one of the most lopsided in history, with the Vikings portrayed as giving up too much to acquire Walker.

WNBA player for the Merchant of Death. This tops the Vikings-Cowboys Herschel Walker trade. Unreal,” wrote Whitlock on Twitter.

Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons, whose uncles have served in the military, also referenced Whelan. “We left a marine?!! Hell nah,” he wrote on Twitter. He later clarified that he was happy Griner has been released.

“I’m super happy she’s back home as she should be. I just have family who have served and it’s crazy to me the President wouldn’t bring him home too. I’m the furthest thing from a trump supporter but I’m not a fan of Biden either,” he wrote.

Whelan’s family issued a statement on Thursday saying they support Griner’s release, although his brother said it is a “catastrophe” that the former Marine is still in Russia.

Comments / 34

Ann Jue

What about Paul Whelan? Held over 4 yrs? I call this a crappy political deal! He should have been brought home first! She broke the law!!!!


There’s another election in 2 years, gotta get them votes anyway they can. What a crock. The sad part is they left Paul Whelan out of the deal. Way to go Biden. Seems to be dead silence when it comes to Mr. Whelan.

Karen Mccabe

This proves America's Official NUT JOBS The Biden Adminstration have no regards for American military!!


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