Brittney Griner in Texas: Freed WNBA in San Antonio

Nearly 24 hours after we discovered of the Houston native and WNBA star’s launch, Brittney Griner has landed in San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — Houston native and WNBA star Brittney Griner arrived again in Texas Friday morning, after being launched as a part of a prisoner swap with Russia.

Griner returned to Kelly Field in San Antonio. From there, she was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for analysis.

The WNBA star was a part of a swap that freed Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout, however did not win freedom for an additional American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for almost 4 years, the White House mentioned.

RELATED: A take a look at Brittney Griner’s career on and off the basketball court docket

The deal, the second in eight months amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, secured the discharge of essentially the most outstanding American detained overseas and achieved a high objective for President Joe Biden. But it carried what U.S. officers described as a heavy value.

RELATED: Who is Viktor Bout? The arms supplier exchanged for Houston native, WNBA star Brittney Griner

“She’s secure, she’s on a aircraft, she’s on her approach house,” Biden mentioned from the White House, the place he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and administration officers.

Biden’s authorization to launch Bout, the Russian felon as soon as nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration confronted to get Griner house, notably after the latest decision of her prison case on drug prices and subsequent switch to a penal colony. Griner, who additionally performed professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there final February for bringing lower than a gram of hashish oil in vape cartridges into the nation.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury professional basketball star, whose arrest in February made her essentially the most high-profile American jailed overseas. Her standing as an brazenly homosexual Black girl, locked up in a rustic the place authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ group, injected racial, gender and social dynamics into her authorized saga and introduced unprecedented consideration to the inhabitants of wrongful detainees.

RELATED: Supporters rejoice launch of Brittney Griner

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the swap, saying in a press release carried by Russian information businesses that the trade occurred in Abu-Dhabi and that Bout had been flown house.

Biden spoke with Griner who was at an airport in Abu-Dhabi after she was greeted by U.S. officers. She was anticipated to be again in the U.S. inside 24 hours, Biden mentioned. U.S. officers mentioned she can be provided specialised medical companies and counseling, however declined to enter specifics citing privateness considerations.

Both Russian and U.S. officers had conveyed cautious optimism in latest weeks after months of strained negotiations, with Biden saying in November that he was hopeful that Russia would interact in a deal now that the midterm elections have been accomplished. A high Russian official mentioned final week {that a} deal was potential earlier than year’s finish.

Even so, the truth that the deal was a one-for-one swap was a shock on condition that U.S. officers had for months expressed their dedication to carry house each Griner and Whelan, a Michigan company safety government jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage prices that his household and the U.S. authorities has mentioned are baseless.

RELATED: President Biden speaks on why American Paul Whelan wasn’t launched with Brittney Griner

“We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan,” Biden mentioned. “We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release.”

U.S. officers mentioned they didn’t see a right away path to bringing about Whelan’s launch, saying Russia has handled his case in another way due to the “sham espionage” prices in opposition to him. Still, they mentioned they consider communication channels with the Russians stay open for negotiations for his freedom — although it was not clear what price would must be paid to safe it.

“We didn’t need to lose the chance at the moment to safe the discharge of considered one of them,” mentioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Whelan’s brother David mentioned in a press release he was “ so glad” for Griner’s launch but additionally disenchanted for his household. He credited the White House with giving the Whelan household advance discover and mentioned he didn’t fault officers for making the deal.

“The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen,” he mentioned.


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