WNBA star Griner freed from Russian prison in prisoner exchange


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WNBA player Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian prison last week after the United States and Russian governments agreed to trade her freedom for that of arms dealer Victor Bout. Griner faced nine years for possession of marijuana concentrate. American Paul Whelan, accused of spying, remains in the custody of Russian authorities.

Angela Jia '25, National and World News Editor

Brittney Griner is an American professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association. She’s an eight-time WNBA All-Star, a two time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, has authored a book, and has been married to her wife for three years. 

She was also sentenced to nine years of prison in Russia since Feb. 17 for allegedly carrying marijuana concentrate in her luggage, and was released on Dec. 8 in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout. 

However, her detainment wasn’t just over the marijuana, as Vox explained that she has been caught up in a geopolitical conflict between Russia and the U.S. worsened by the conflict in Ukraine; but, her release may represent the tentative decreasing friction of US and Russia relations. 

As of press time, Griner is now on a flight back to San Antonio where she will receive medical care and reunite with friends and family. 

During her detainment, her attorneys Maria Blagovolia and Alexander Boykov described how Griner was confused and treated unfairly by a legal system she is unfamiliar with in a language she does not understand. 

KJ Dacoscos ’25, a player on the Girls varsity basketball team, said, “I feel like Britney should have made herself more aware of the laws in Russia. I don’t think she would have done what she did if she knew the consequences… She [was] probably being made an example by their government, like they’re making a statement that [whether] you’re famous or not, if you break the law in our country, you will be punished.”  

On Nov. 17, she was transferred to a penal colony is Western Russia to serve out her sentence. That event had sparked renewed efforts from the U.S. negotiating for her release, efforts, which proved to be successful.  

Negotiations entailed the U.S. offering the prisoner swap with Russia, giving up Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan (another American detained in Russia). 

In the end though, only Griner was freed. 

Edward Macdonald ’23 said, “I think it’s great that an American citizen was released, but the arms dealer… just from a damages-done perspective, it definitely wasn’t an equal trade off since Victor Bout caused more harm than her.”