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Brittney Griner Makes First Public Statement Since Release From Russian Prison

On Friday, Brittney Griner shared her first public statement since being released from her nearly 10-month stint in Russian custody, sharing her gratitude to those who helped bring her home, declaring her intent to resume playing for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury next season and calling on efforts to bring more Americans home, including Paul Whelan.

It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” Griner wrote in an Instagram post accompanied by photographs of her stepping off the plane and reconnecting with her wife. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

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Griner was detained in Moscow in February for drug smuggling and possession of cannabis—which she had less than one gram of—and shuffled through months of court proceedings that ended in August when she received a nine-year sentence and was sent to a remote Russian penal colony. U.S. officials deemed Griner to be “wrongfully detained” and advocated for her release but were unsuccessful until the Russian government agreed to a prisoner exchange, returning Griner for Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms dealer who had been in an American penitentiary for a decade. Griner returned to U.S. soil on Dec. 8.

In her statement, Griner personally thanked her wife and other family members, her teammates and the rest of the WNBA community, her legal team in Russia, the activists and organizations who advocated for her return, the support and medical staff that helped her acclimate to the return and the Biden-Harris administration.

Griner paid special thanks to President Biden and his commitment to bringing her and other Americans home, saying, “every family deserves to be whole.”

“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 that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home.”

Griner also said that she will be playing again in the WNBA., I also want to make one thing very clear: 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. Love always, BG #42,” she wrote.