She’s Back; Brittney Griner Back on U.S. Soil

Brittney Griner will play for the Phoenix Mercury again


Courtesy of Lorie Shaull / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Minnesota Lynx vs Phoenix Mercury at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN on July 14 2019; the Lynx won the game 75-62.

GABRIELLE BOWMAN, Evergreen news co-editor

Brittney Griner is home in Arizona and is planning to play basketball for the Phoenix Mercury this season. Griner was held in a Russian prison for 10 months when Russian officials found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her bag.

Griner said that the oil was prescribed to her for pain and was hastily packed in her bag, according to a CNN article. 

She spent 10 months in custody in Russia until the U.S. and Russia agreed to conduct a prisoner swap with Griner and Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer arrested in Thailand in 2008, according to a New York Times article. 

Bout was arrested for killing Americans and Griner for having a vape cartridge of hashish oil. In the end, the swap was still done. 

“It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” Griner wrote in an Instagram post. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.” 

However, Griner is still concerned with Paul Whelan, a U.S., Irish, British and Canadian citizen who is still imprisoned in a Russian penal colony after he was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges, according to a CNN article. 

Griner wants people to continue fighting to get every American freed as she was, she wrote in her Instagram post. Whelan was supposed to be in the swap with Griner but Russia and the U.S. were not able to come to an agreement to get Whelan in on the swap. 

Griner plans to return for the 2023 WNBA season. 

“Part of the joy that she’s brought to people is how she plays and the way she plays and who she is when she plays,” Phoenix Mercury President Vince Kozar said to ESPN. “And I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some kind of anticipation or excitement about the idea that everyone would get to experience that again, but that’s not what matters most.” 

During interviews conducted by the Daily Evergreen at the UREC Feb. 9 and 10, students expressed varying opinions about Griner’s situation.

A WSU student speaks talks about Brittney Griner at the UREC, February 2023

“It’s the nature of our polarization today it’s so deep, it’s so visceral and emotive. It taps into identities that there will always be criticism and it’s very easy when you get into that kind of polarized state to engage in,” said Cornell Clayton, CO Johnson Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of the Thomas Foley Institute. “You find reasons to disagree with what the administration did on the exchange or to support the administration on what they did in the exchange.”

The experience she went through would be overwhelming, Audrey Anderson, freshman international business major, said. 

“I feel like it was more political than anything,” Anderson said. “I think that it was definitely something that was almost a pressure trying to get a political prisoner.” 

The reason for differing opinions on Griner’s release can be based on strong social identities, Clayton said.  

People will always have differing opinions on different subjects based on their political stances, the way they were raised and other aspects of life. It is human nature, Clayton said.  

“You can come up with all sorts of plausible arguments for or against the exchange, the trade that was made and the ones you accept is probably going to be based more on your social identity than anything we call pure reason,” he said.

Brittney Griner will return to the court May 19 for her 10th season in the WNBA.