After spending 10 months in a Russian penal colony for illegal possession of cannabis oil, WNBA player Brittney Griner returned home just in time for Christmas. The basketball star took several days to recover from the harrowing experience privately but has now spoken out about her return to U.S. soil.
“It feels so good to be home!” she wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post. “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.”
After thanking each person involved with her return by name, Brittney Griner gave special thanks to President Biden and expressed hope that other Americans held in Russia won’t be far behind her. “President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too,” Griner wrote. “I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. … Every family deserves to be whole.”
The post received mixed reactions from social media users. Though many expressed joy in her return, others’ primary feeling is disappointment that former Marine Paul Whelan remains detained. “So happy for her. Take your time BG. We are ALWAYS here for you!!” one user wrote.
So she doesn’t hate her country anymore? Maybe this is what it took for her to learn to appreciate the freedoms she enjoys here.— Miss Deplorable 🗣 (@Miss_Deplorable) December 16, 2022
“I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I would not put the world in danger for my release,” another said, referencing the prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout. “She was super ungrateful to our country before she got locked up,” added a third.
Paul Whelan Speaks Out About Brittney Griner Release
The public’s reaction to Brittney Griner’s return was far from overwhelmingly positive, especially in light of the circumstances surrounding her release. Former Marine Paul Whelan, however, expressed no ill feelings toward the WNBA player.
Instead, he simply expressed disappointment and frustration that U.S. officials have been unable to secure his release from Russia in the four years he’s been detained. “I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” Whelan told CNN. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
Paul Whelan’s brother David expressed similar feelings regarding Brittney Griner’s return home. “It’s great news. Anytime an American comes home, it’s wonderful news,” David Whelan told CNN. “I’m so glad for Brittney and Cherelle. It’s a wonderful day.”
The outrage surrounding Paul Whelan’s continued imprisonment is undeniable. But President Biden assured the world that he didn’t choose Brittney Griner over the former Marine. “We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan,” Biden said in a statement. “We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release.”
“This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice between bringing home one particular American – Brittney Griner – or bringing home none,” a U.S. senior administration official added.