OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
WNBA player Brittney Griner will be back on a basketball court after her release earlier this winter from a Russian prison, returning for her 10th season as she will suit up with the Phoenix Mercury, the team that drafted her No. 1 overall in 2013, on a one-year contract, reports said on Sunday.
According to a report from Her Hoop Stats, the last time she was on the court for the Mercury, she helped lead the team to the 2021 WNBA Finals.
“Griner delivered one of her best performances in 2021. She finished the season with a career-high 9.5 rebounds per game and averaged 20.5 points and 2.7 assists per contest. She also averaged 2.4 offensive rebounds on the year,” Fox News noted.
She did not play with her team during the 2022 season due to being detained in Russia. Griner had traveled to Russia during the WNBA offseason to play professional basketball.
In February of 2022, Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after Russian authorities discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The incident led to her detention and prevented her from playing in the 2022 WNBA season.
Prior to her arrest in Russia, Griner had developed a reputation for protesting during the playing of the National Anthem. During the 2020 season, she joined many other WNBA players who also did not stand during the anthem. She later said she did not believe that the anthem should be played at all before any game.
Outkick host and Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren had words for her after her release after the Biden administration traded a notorious Russian arms dealer who had been in prison for nearly a decade, Viktor Bout, for the WNBA player.
“The Biden Administration compromised our national security by releasing a Russian arms dealer nicknamed the merchant of death, all to get back WNBA player Brittney Griner who hates- or at least hated- America,” Lahren said. “As an American, I want to see all Americans return home safely and securely. That’s why I also find it odd that former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan — another prisoner stranded in Russia — was passed over!
“I guess it pays to be a celebrity who plays sports,” Lahren continued. “Regardless of how I feel, the deal is done. Now, my only hope is that Brittney Griner will return home to the USA — the greatest nation on the face of the earth, with a heart full of gratitude, legs ready to stand for the anthem, and lungs ready to belt out that Star Spangled Banner- and from the rooftops.
“I hope she’s learned that the nation she once found so reprehensible and oppressive is not only her saving grace but a damn good place to call home. She- like the rest of us- is privileged to be an American,” Lahren continued, adding: “Welcome home, Brittney, and God bless America. Am I right?”
When she commented about the National Anthem, Griner told a press conference that she did not “mean that in any disrespect to our country.”
“My dad was in Vietnam and a law officer for 30 years,” she said. “I wanted to be a cop before basketball. I do have pride for my country.”
The family of Whelan, who is white, spoke out after news of the Griner-Bout trade was reported.
“Despite the possibility that there might be an exchange without Paul, our family is still devastated. I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice. His hopes had soared with the knowledge that the US government was taking concrete steps for once towards his release,” the family said.
“He’d been worrying about where he’d live when he got back to the US. And now what? How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has failed twice to free you from a foreign prison? I can’t imagine he retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point. It’s clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes,” they said.