US basketball star Griner back home after Russia prisoner swap

Brittney Griner being exchanged for Bout
Support us and go ad-free

American basketball star Brittney Griner arrived in the United States on 9 December after being released from a Russian prison in exchange for an arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.” Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges, was seen by an Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter walking across a runway after her plane landed in San Antonio, Texas.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told NBC that Griner was in:

very good spirits when she got off the plane and appeared to be obviously in good health.

Kirby went on to say that Griner will now be taken to a nearby military facility to make sure she has:

all the access she needs to health care workers just to make sure that she is OK.

Griner was exchanged in Abu Dhabi on Thursday for Viktor Bout, a Russian national who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison. In footage released by Russian state media, Griner – shorn of her distinctive dreadlocks – and a relaxed looking Bout crossed paths on the airport tarmac and headed towards the planes that would take them home.

Putin says ‘compromises’ found

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) champion, was arrested at a Moscow airport against a backdrop of soaring tensions over Ukraine. She was accused of possessing vape cartridges with a small quantity of cannabis oil, and was sentenced in August to nine years in prison. Bout, who was accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, was detained in a US sting operation in Thailand in 2008, extradited to the United States, and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years behind bars.

Read on...

At the time of her arrest, Griner had been playing for a professional team in Russia, as a number of WNBA players do in the off-season. She pleaded guilty to the charges against her, but said she did not intend to break the law or use the banned substance in Russia. Griner testified that she had permission from a US doctor to use medicinal cannabis to relieve pain from her many injuries. The use of medical marijuana is not allowed in Russia.

US president Joe Biden announced Griner’s release on Thursday flanked by her wife, Cherelle Griner, pictured in red below:

Joy and relief

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said there was a “collective wave of joy and relief” in the women’s professional league where Griner has been a star for a decade. On social media, there was also joy at the long-awaited return of Griner – as well as concern.

The WNBA Twitter account expressed relief:

Sherrilyn Ifill shared feeling joy:

Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein pointed out that as a Black woman, Griner faced misogynoir:

Professor Uju Anya pointed out the unfairness of why Griner was in Russia in the first place:

Writer Sami Schalk reiterated the specifics of Griner’s experience as a Black woman:

The Root writer Stephanie Holland said:

let’s never forget that it was women, primarily the Black women she plays with in the WNBA, who made sure Griner’s plight was never forgotten. Black women kept the pressure on President Biden, kept the story in the news and used their platforms to make sure Brittney’s name trended around the world. This is what happens when Black women take the reins and get stuff done.

Featured image via YouTube/screenshot – Washington Post

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. There are (mostly Black, all poor) people who have been in US prison camps for longer, for less.

      I’m sure Bidet will put as much effort into having THEM released too, after all he is the main reason they were put there to begin with.

        1. President Biden has done only the barest minimum to fulfil any of his campaign promises, and his progress towards freeing men incarcerated for possession of drugs has been slow and reluctant.

          “Edwin Rubis has served more than two decades of a 40-year federal prison sentence for participating in a marijuana distribution operation. Taking into account “good time” credit, he is not scheduled to be released until August 2032.

          Rubis is one of about 3,000 federal prisoners whose cannabis-related sentences were unaffected by President Joe Biden’s mass pardon for low-level marijuana offenders. A protest at the White House today called attention to their predicament.

          Biden’s October 6 proclamation applied only to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents convicted of simple marijuana possession under the Controlled Substances Act or the District of Columbia Code, none of whom was still incarcerated. Although his pardons could benefit as many as 10,000 or so individuals, that represents a tiny percentage of all simple possession cases, which typically are charged under state law. And Biden’s action will not release a single federal prisoner.”

    2. In addition to the obvious rejoinders about the number of American men locked up for decades for drugs convictions, there is another about Viktor Bout, who was imprisoned for doing what the US government does more than any other government on earth: market and sell weapons for profit. The results are predictable: more wars for longer, more deaths, more poverty, more involuntary migration, more profits for corporations, more comfortable and bizarrely respectable jobs for middle-class Americans.

      “The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) came out with its annual analysis of the global arms trade this week and as usual, the United States was the number one weapons exporter by a large margin. For the five years from 2017 to 2021, the U.S. accounted for 39 percent of major arms deliveries worldwide, over twice what Russia transferred and nearly 10 times what China sent to its weapons clients. In addition, the U.S. had far more customers – 103 nations, or more than half of the member states of the United Nations.”

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.