Brittney Griner is coming home — but her wife promises this won’t be the end of the story

The WNBA star is on a plane from Russia, with a new cause to fight for.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner looks from inside a defendants' cage before a hearing a...
ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images
Homecoming

Brittney Griner is finally coming home. President Joe Biden announced this morning that the WNBA star and political prisoner has been released from Russian jail and is currently on a flight back to the U.S. Griner was freed as part of a one-for-one prisoner swap; with the athlete’s freedom comes the release and return of international arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a 25-year federal prison sentence at an Illinois prison.

"Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home," tweeted President Biden, alongside photos of himself and Vice President Kamala Harris with Griner's wife, Cherelle. “This is a day we worked towards for a long time,” Biden later added in a televised address Thursday morning.

Griner was arrested in March 2022 at an airport near Moscow for possession of several medically-prescribed cannabis vape cartridges and immediately detained, with Russia citing her alleged intent to smuggle narcotics into the country. Griner pled guilty in Russian court while explaining she had “no intent” to break the law. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison, and in November, she was transferred to a Russian penal colony. In total, Griner spent nearly 10 months in custody.

The Griner-Bout prisoner swap is the Biden Administration’s second trade with Russia this year. In April, Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine, was released from U.S. custody for Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was convicted of endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in an altercation; he was imprisoned in Russia for nearly three years. Now, all eyes are on Paul Whelan, a retired U.S. Marine who the U.S. says was falsely convicted on espionage charges and has been in Russian custody for nearly four years.

On Thursday, President Biden said despite the fact that Russia is treating Whelan’s case differently “for totally illegitimate reasons,” the U.S. “will never give up” in securing the retired Marine’s release. Cherrelle, Griner’s wife, echoed those sentiments.

“B.G. is not here to say this, but I will gladly speak on her behalf and say that B.G. and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul [Whelan], whose family is in our hearts today,” Cherrelle told the press on Thursday. “We do understand that there are still people out here who are enduring what I endured the last nine months of missing tremendously their loved ones.”