UPDATED: 2:00 p.m. ET, Feb. 20
Originally published Dec. 12, 2022
Brittney Griner will be headed back to the WNBA.
According to AP, Griner will be heading back to the Phoenix Mercury basketball court after signing a one-year contract.
The new contract was confirmed by “a person familiar with the deal” but no official announcement has been made.
Griner, 33, is listed on the team’s roster on the official WNBA website. The update to the team’s roster mirrors Griner’s public resurgence after returning home from being imprisoned in Russia.
The athlete was detained in Russia after being apprehended at a Moscow airport for having cannabis vape cartridges in her possession. Griner later pled guilty and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
Brittney Griner has broken her silence since being released from a Russian penal colony and offered a glimpse into what’s next for the superstar athlete.
Penning her comments on an Instagram post in Dec., Griner vowed she would return to the WNBA. Griner credited her “faith” and thanked everybody who was involved in securing her freedom, including her wife and President Joe Biden, who successfully negotiated a prisoner swap with a Russian arms dealer.
But it was the final part of her Instagram post that was getting the most attention:
I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.
There was no mention of her possible return to Russia or elsewhere abroad to play professionally.
Brittney Griner is slowly making her return to the court, just days after her long-awaited return to the U.S.
Over the weekend, the 32-year-old athlete picked up a basketball for the first time in 10 months, her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas told ESPN. Donning a pair of black Chuck Taylor sneakers and Phoenix Suns shorts, Griner hit a slam dunk into the net during her “light” workout session. It’s unclear whether the former Phoenix Mercury star plans to return to the WNBA after her strenuous time in Russian detainment.
“If she wants to play, it will be for her to share. She has the holidays to rest and decide what’s next without any pressure,” Colas said. “She’s doing really, really well. She seems to have endured this in pretty incredible ways.”
On Dec. 8, Griner was released from Russia’s infamous IK2 women’s prison facility where she was serving her nine-year prison sentence for drug smuggling. The basketball star was freed in a prisoner swap for convicted weapons merchant Viktor Bout. After her release, Griner was taken to the Fort Sam Houston army base in San Antonio for rehabilitation. She has not issued a public statement since her return, but Colas since she may break her silence “this week.”
Griner has been staying at the army base’s hotel with her wife Cherelle, reuniting with family and loved ones. Over the weekend, Colas said that Griner’s father and several other family members visited her with tasty barbecue from San Antonia’s famous Smoke Shack restaurant. There’s no word quite yet on where the basketball star will head next after she leaves San Antonio. Some insiders believe that she will not return to Phoenix, but instead, “a private secure location.”
“There’s no timeline on her return at this point. She’s reintegrating into a world that has changed for her now,” Colas said. “From a pure security standpoint, she’s not going to be able to move in the world the way she did. It’s not a fate that she asked for, but I think she’s going to try to utilize her fame for good.”
Right now, Griner has family and charity on her mind. Colas said the basketball star wants to raise awareness about other Americans who are wrongfully detained across the globe. Right now, she has her eyes set on Paul Whelan, the former U.S. marine who has been in a Russian prison for four years on espionage charges.
Griner has been in good spirits since her release
Despite her rough experience abroad, authorities said that Griner has been in good spirits since her release. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens told CNN that the 6-foot-9 athlete shook hands and made personal connections with the crew on her flight back to the U.S.
“When she finally got on to the US plane, I said, ‘Brittney, you must have been through a lot over the last 10 months. Here’s your seat. Please feel free to decompress. We’ll give you your space,’” Carstens told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union. “And she said, ‘Oh no. I’ve been in prison for 10 months now listening to Russian, I want to talk. But first of all, who are these guys?’ And she moved right past me and went to every member on that crew, looked them in the eyes, shook their hands and asked about them and got their names… It was really amazing,” Carstens recalled. “She probably spent 12 hours just talking and we talked about everything under the sun.”
Cherelle Griner thanks everyone who helped to bring Brittney home
Over the weekend, Cherelle took to Instagram to thank all of the government officials who helped to bring her wife home safe and sound.
“Yesterday my heart was made whole thanks to the collective efforts of MANY! I’m humbled by their hearts. To care for another, a stranger to some, a friend to some— is humanity in its purest form! She captioned a collage of photos. Many of the images captured her standing next to prominent figures like Gayle King and Robin Roberts.
“As BG and I start our journey to heal our minds, bodies, and spirits— I wanted to personally say thank you to some of the hands; seen and unseen, that helped make it possible for me to see my wife again!”
In the lengthy post, Cherelle thanked the Biden-Harris Administration, SPEHA, Tamika Mallory and several other “special people” for fighting for Brittney Griner’s freedom.
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