Griner had been imprisoned on drug charges in Russia and was returned to the US in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Brittney Griner was released from a Russian penal colony in a prisoner swap on Thursday
NBA superstar Steph Curry celebrated Griner’s release, praising President Joe Biden
The four-time NBA champion spoke during his speech at the 2022 Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards (pictured left with his wife Ayesha and right with his cover)
The Golden State Warriors point guard was accepting the award for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year (pictured right with SportsKid of the Year Carter Bonas)
The 32-year-old was facing nine years in a Russian penal colony, where she was expected to toil in sweatshop conditions while sewing for 12 hours or more per day.
Four-time NBA champion Curry, who has been an avid supporter of bringing Griner back to the United States, celebrated her release while thanking the Biden administration and the WNBA player herself for her ‘sacrifice.’
However, the Golden State Warriors star also claimed the situation acted as a stark reminder that the public needed to ‘stay engaged’ in the fight to protect American citizens.
‘We are glad she’s home, we’re glad she’s reunited with her family,’ Curry said during his speech at the 2022 Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards.
Griner was released after the Biden Administration was able to reach a deal with the Kremlin
‘It’s a constant reminder for everybody continuing to use their platforms to speak on issues that are meaningful and can move the needle.
‘Thank you to President Biden’s administration for being a part of that fight. But, it’s also a reminder that we all need to stay engaged in the fight to protect American citizens at home and abroad who are wrongfully detained, and we can continue to be engaged in that fight.
‘BG, we love you. We thank you for your sacrifice and your continued perseverance and patience to get through this process, and hope you enjoy reuniting with your family. We are always with you BG.’
Curry, who was accepting the award for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, reiterated his thoughts on the red carpet before the event.
The four-time NBA winner thanked Biden’s administration ‘for being a part of the fight’
‘It is amazing that Brittney’s home,’ Curry said. ‘It was obviously too long of a process to get her back from being unlawfully and unrightly detained in Russia.
‘I think one, shoutout to President [Joe] Biden and his administration and all the athletes, activists, people who used their platform to speak on her behalf.
‘I know there’s a conversation now there’s hopefully leading to protecting and speaking on other American citizens that are still unlawfully detained overseas, and knowing that there’s still a lot of families that are in a similar predicament.
‘This is great news that Brittney is home, excited to see her get back with her family.’
Griner was sentenced in August following her February arrest at an airport in Moscow, when Russian authorities say she was caught entering the country with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She had been at a detention center near Moscow until November 4, when she was moved to the IK-2 facility in Yavas.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist’s months-long imprisonment brought attention to the population of wrongful detainees in Russia, while adding pressure on the Biden Administration to complete a prisoner swap for Griner’s release.
President Joe Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday, along with her wife Cherelle, who was in the Oval Office for the occasion.
The swap was confirmed by US officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations who were not authorized to publicly discuss the deal before a White House announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday while her wife, Cherelle, was in the Oval Office. The president was to address reporters later in the morning
PICTURED (from left to right): Biden, Griner’s wife Cherelle, vice president Kamala Harris, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
Biden’s authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death’ underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.
Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday while her wife, Cherelle, was in the Oval Office.
The deal was brokered with Vladimir Putin, responsible for the genocide in Ukraine – and with the help of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, just 48 hours after the U.S. dropped a lawsuit holding him responsible for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The news was met with anger by supporters of former Marine Paul Whelan, who remains in Russian prison. Republicans condemned that as ‘unconscionable’ and said the White House was focused on ‘celebrities’ over veterans detained by Putin.
Suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, center, is led by armed Thai police commandos as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand in Oct. 5, 2010. Russia has freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout
Griner was in IK-2 in Yavas, one of several penal colonies in the region, according to Reuters
Whelan said from prison that he was ‘greatly disappointed’ the Biden administration did not do more to secure his release alongside Griner and said he was ready to ‘go home’.
In the Kremlin the announcement was seen as a ‘New Year’s gift’ to bring home Bout, a former KGB officer who sold arms to human rights abusers in Africa and was linked to deals with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
A senior administration official would not comment directly on MBS’s role but said the U.S. will ‘continue to lean on partners around the world’ to secure the release of unjustly detailed Americans.
The 32-year-old Griner was flown from Moscow to Abu Dhabi on a private jet on Thursday morning and walked across the tarmac to her plane home past ‘Merchant of Death’ Bout. Griner was facing nine years in a Russian penal colony, where she was expected to toil in sweatshop conditions while sewing for 12 hours or more per day.
Addressing the nation from the White House on Thursday morning, the president said Griner was ‘in good spirits’ while returning home after undergoing ‘intolerable’ circumstances in Russian custody.