Griner, in first public remarks since leaving Russia, says Biden 'committed' to bringing back Whelan

The American basketball star was arrested and found guilty in Russia on drug smuggling and possession charges.

Updated: December 16, 2022 - 12:25pm

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U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner on Friday made her first public remarks since recently returning to the country in a prisoner swap with Russia – thanking those who helped her through the roughly 10-month ordeal and expressing faith in President Biden's commitment to bring home ex-Marine Paul Whelan.

"It feels so good to be home!" Griner wrote on her Instagram page. "I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help."

Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow-area airport for attempting to bring a vape cartridge with a marijuana derivate into Russia. She pleaded guilty in July to the related charges and was later sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.

The WNBA star and two-time Olympic champion was exchanged for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Whelan is still in Russian prison, but Griner says she believes Biden will bring him home. 

"President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too," Griner also posted.

That Griner, an athlete behind bars from less than year, being traded for a convicted arms dealer instead of Whelan sparked a firestorm over such issue as race, gender and partisan favoritism. 

"I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you," Griner also said in the social media post. "I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole."

Griner also announced that she plans on returning to the WNBA for the upcoming season. 

"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," she wrote.