Celebrating this win
On December 8, 2022, Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison, and on December 9, 2022, she landed in San Antonio, Texas. Brittney Griner, a wife, a Black woman, a daughter, an athlete, a sister, a mother, and an American, is finally home. In this article, we want to celebrate her release. Brittney was originally detained on February 14, 2022, just a few days before Russia launched a full military attack against Ukraine. She was detained for 294 days in Russia and faced a nine-year sentence. (Sandoval, 2022)
Brittney returned to Texas and began to receive the standard medical evaluation and reintegration assessment for returning American prisoners. Simultaneously, she was being evaluated by media outlets and the public. Questions began to circulate about why she was chosen for this prisoner exchange. Many news outlets began questioning why U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was not a part of that exchange. But Paul’s brother, David Whelan said, “It is so important to me that it is clear that we do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom.” (CBS News, 2022)
Whether intentional or consequential, throughout history, many black women have highlighted injustice in our systems through their own imprisonment or death. Brittney’s plight is no different. Wrongful imprisonment and unjust sentencing have been happening in other countries for some time. We conduct prison exchanges with other countries often, and it isn’t always equitable in the number of people exchanged or the person’s political status. (Sandoval, 2022)
In 2016, The United States (U.S.) exchanged seven Iranians, and Iran freed four Americans. (Sandoval, 2022) The numbers aren’t exactly equitable, but to each person who’s released, I’m sure it felt equitable. In 2014 the U.S. released three Cuban spies who had been in prison since 2001. In exchange, Cuba released one U.S. intelligence agent. (Sandoval, 2022) Each prisoner we get home is a win; Britney returning home is a win. The Biden administration said, “repeated offers were made for offers to get Whelan as part of this deal-even after Russia made clear only Griner was acceptable.” (Sandoval, 2022)
Another point the media outlets have brought up is why Brittney Griner was playing in Russia in the first place. Many outlets have brought attention to pay inequalities between NBA and WNBA players, but what about consumers attending more WNBA games? Would that increase their pay? In 2021 the highest-paid NBA player made the equivalent of 350-plus WNBA players. (Azzi, 2022) Pay inequality has been an issue, and Brittney Griner’s imprisonment highlighted the pay gap. Britney’s situation is bringing attention to wrongful imprisonment, pay inequity, unjust marijuana convictions, and much more.
As Britney is getting reacclimated, let’s support her peace of mind and body. Whether Britney wants to return to the sport she once loved or pivot into something else, that is her decision, and it should be respected. Although many Black women have started a movement from their imprisonment and unjust treatment, it is not our responsibility to fix all the world’s problems nor is it Britney’s. Brittney, we celebrate your return and wait for your decision. Whether Brittney returns to sports or becomes the champion to campaign for the release of other Americans imprisoned in other countries. Welcome home, Britney Griner.