WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner released her first statement since being released from Russia earlier this month as part of a high-profile prisoner swap with the United States.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Griner thanked a long list of people who campaigned for her return with a “special thank you to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken and the entire Biden-Harris administration.”
“It feels so good to be home!” She wrote alongside a photo of her getting off a plane. “The last 10 months have been a struggle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love of so many of you that helped me move on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your help.”
Earlier this month, the US traded Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Griner was arrested earlier this year after Moscow airport officials said they found vapor cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. In August she was sentenced to nine years in prison.
In her Instagram post, Griner said she intends to return to the WNBA and play next season with Phoenix Mercury, a team she has been on since 2013.
The basketball player also said she remains committed to ensuring the return of other US citizens who have been detained abroad, including former US Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence after being arrested in Moscow in 2018 on suspicion of espionage had been arrested.
“I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you,” she wrote to Whelan.
The omission of Whelan’s release from the Dec. 8 prisoner swap drew widespread attention, as some questioned why the Biden administration hadn’t included him in the deal.
Although Whelan’s family said they “absolutely support” Griner’s release, they continued to urge the White House to find a way to bring the former Marine home.
Read her full statement below:
It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a struggle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love of so many of you that helped me move on. From the bottom of my heart I thank everyone for their help.
I am grateful to everyone who has stood up for me, especially my wife, Cherelle Griner, my family, Lindsay Kagawa Colas and Casey Wasserman, and my entire team at Wasserman, Vince Kozar, and Phoenix Mercury, the players of the WNBA, and my entire WNBA team -Family, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, my Russian legal team Maria Blagovolina and Alex Boykov, the leaders, activists and grassroots organizations, Governor Richardson and Mickey Bergman of the Richardson Center, the Bring Our Families Home campaign, Roger Carstens and the SPEHA- team and of course a special thanks to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken and the entire Biden-Harris administration.
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. I also encourage everyone who helped bring me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.
As I head home to enjoy the holidays with my family, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the entire PISA staff and medical team at the San Antonio Fort Sam Houston Base. I appreciate the time and care taken to ensure I am safe and equipped with the tools for this new journey.
I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and I look forward to saying “thank you” to those of you who have championed, written, and written about it soon personally posted for me.
https://www.newsweek.com/brittney-griner-reveals-if-shell-return-wnba-after-russia-trade-deal-1767793 Brittney Griner reveals if she will return to WNBA after Russia trade deal