Brittney Griner has made her first public comments since returning to the United States, thanking her family, WNBA teammates and the Biden Administration in an Instagram post on Friday.
The Phoenix Mercury star traveled back to the U.S. on Dec. 8 after she spent nearly 10 months in Russia. Following a long stretch of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, she was released in a prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to CBS News.
“It feels so good to be home!” Griner said. “The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. 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.”
Griner was detained in February after the Russian Federal Customs Service claimed it found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. A judge in Russia convicted Griner of drug possession and smuggling on Aug. 4 and sentenced her to nine years in prison, but the verdict was viewed as a formality because the length of her detainment was going to be determined by negotiations on a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia.
Griner was released on Dec. 8 in a prisoner exchange that took place in the United Arab Emirates, per CBS News. In order to bring Griner back to the U.S., President Joe Biden freed Bout, who had been serving a 25-year prison sentence after he was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans.
Griner thanked President Biden for bringing her home, adding that she plans to use her platform to help raise awareness regarding the case of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been jailed in Russia for four years on espionage charges. Whelan and the U.S. government have consistently denied those charges.
“I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home,” Griner said. “Every family deserves to be whole.”
Griner also noted that she will play for the Mercury during the 2023 WNBA season.
“I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season,” Griner said, “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.”