WNBA superstar Brittney Griner is home for Christmas after President Joe Biden made the bold decision to free Griner in a prisoner swap with the Russian government that also freed convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Griner’s welcome home party on a military base outside San Antonio, Texas, included a barbecue and a Christmas tree. Her first move of freedom on the basketball court was a dunk. Griner has since announced her intentions to return to the Phoenix Mercury this season after the WNBA paid her entire 2022 salary while incarcerated.
Griner’s welcome party in her collegiate town of Baylor, Texas, at a church minutes away from the campus on which she won a national championship, was only attended by 20 celebrators, according to an ESPN profile of the event. The church expected many more in attendance of the event in which organizers planned to “grieve over the way the world is.”
The Russian government originally sentenced Griner to nine years in a maximum-security penal colony for women located 200 miles west of Moscow after denying her appeal for freedom in October.
President Biden faced criticism for leaving Paul Whelan, a former United States Marine serving 16 years in Russian custody on espionage charges, out of the deal that freed Griner.
In her first statement since being freed, Griner has pledged to work to free all wrongly incarcerated Americans, including Whelan.