Brittney Griner Returns Home After Trade with Russia for Arms Dealer
Yes, you read that right! Brittney Griner has returned to the US after being convicted of drug offenses in Russia. In a deal that has taken months to materialize, the US and Russian Governments have agreed to a prisoner trade. Earlier this week Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and prominent WNBA Star, was on a plane heading back to the United States. In return, Russia received notorious Russian Arms Dealer, dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, Viktor Bout.
This one-for-one deal is being considered a victory by many, but comes at a cost. Originally, President Joe Biden and his administration had proposed a different prisoner exchange, seeking the return of former Marine Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout. Mr. Whelan was not included in the finalized deal and remains in Russia, where he has been detained for nearly 4 years.
While Griner’s return is being celebrated by many, it may not be considered a moral victory. Griner, a prominent US athlete with the capacity to inspire millions of young women, was traded for a one of the ‘world’s most prolific arms dealers’ – an informal title given to Bout by the US Justice Department.
The news broke yesterday after President Biden shared a call with Griner from the Oval Office. Griner’s legal battle was a focal point for many in the global news community, as she faced hostility and racial bias, as an openly gay Black woman in a predominantly Caucasian, heteronormative country.
While the initial prisoner exchange was proposed months ago (and included Paul Whelan), it seemed to lose momentum in waning days of summer and as the midterm elections loomed. With the ballots cast and counted, attention shifted back to Griner and her return to freedom in the United States.
We are thrilled to see Brittney coming home, who has decided to take time away from work before re-engaging with the WNBA. We only hope that Viktor Bout will not return to his former profession, as that could spell disaster for much of the world. Our thoughts and well-wishes go out to Paul Whelan, who will continue to await the support from his government that Griner enjoyed immediately upon her arrest.