After 10 months of uncertainty, WNBA champion Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian prison in a 1-for-1 prisoner swap. According to CBS News, a deal to exchange the basketball star for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout was made on Dec. 1. The swap took place on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates. Once she was back in US custody, Griner spoke to her wife Cherelle and President Biden on the phone.
Back in July, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the U.S. made a “substantial offer” to Russia, but didn’t give details on what exactly was discussed. Rumors swirled that the deal was to swap Brittney and former Marine Paul Whelan for Bout. Since this has been the assumption that everyone has been working under, there are questions and criticisms about why Whelan was not included in the swap. During a press conference at the White House, President Biden explained that for unknown reasons Russia is treating his case differently.
From the moment the Phoenix Mercury center was detained by police in February, she has been used as a political pawn. Unfortunately, now that she’s heading back home, those days will not be over. There is a particularly hateful part of the country who believe that because Griner is a Black athlete who criticized the country and the national anthem, she should have been left in Russia. Those same unfeeling people will be upset that Griner has been freed, but Whelan is still trapped in Russia. However, CNN is reporting that administration officials said their talks with Russia made it clear that it was Brittney or nothing.
In the weeks to come, we’ll get more details on the talks between the two countries and at some point, Brittney may want to tell her story, but 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.