Hearing the news WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian prison and on her way home to the United States, several sports figures expressed their emotions Thursday on social media and on television.
Griner spent nearly 10 months in custody in Russia after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. After months of high-level negotiations, she was released from a Russian penal colony as part of a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King was among the first sports figures to respond to the news. In a Twitter post, King thanked President Joe Biden ‘and all those who worked so hard to secure her freedom.’
FREE: Griner released as part of prisoner swap between US, Russia
TIMELINE: What has happened since the WNBA star was detained
Another tennis great, Martina Navratilova, celebrated the news as well. ‘(W)elcome home Champ!!!’ she tweeted.
Breanna Stewart cheers Griner’s release
Four-time WNBA all-star and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart, who played five seasons in Russia and has been publicly counting the number of days Griner has been detained, broke her streak of ‘it’s time for her to come home’ tweets, exclaiming ‘BG is FREE!!!’
Baylor buddy Robert Griffin III ‘so happy’
Former NFL quarterback and now ESPN analyst Robert Griffin III, who was a classmate of Griner’s at Baylor when the two were in college, expressed his gratitude: ‘THANK GOD! So happy for her and her family.’
How Dawn Staley reacted
South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley tweeted: ‘God’s grace is SUFFICIENT!’ and ‘I love you BG!’
Staley and Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon appeared Thursday morning on ESPN’s ‘First Take.’
Staley said the news of Griner’s release moved her to tears. “I cried,” she said, “and I’m a girl from Philly, we don’t cry very easily. But I cried, because this is the moment we’ve all been praying for.”
What Becky Hammon had to say
Hammon, who played seven years in Russia, said it was a ‘great experience for most of us over there,’ but noted being in a Russian prison ‘has to be one of the worst places on earth.’
As for Griner finally being able to come home, Hammon said, ‘Our whole WNBA family, it’s a sisterhood, and everyone involved with the game of basketball has to be exuberant this morning.’
Phoenix Mercury, WNBA colleagues share relief
The Phoenix Mercury declared ‘our friend, our sister is headed back home where she belongs,’ in a statement. ‘ … BG’s strength in this process, her unwavering belief that resolution would come, and the hope she displayed every day is what kept all of us believing this day would come.’
The Mercury expressed gratitude to everyone – ‘from players to fans to media – who kept Brittney’s story top-of-mind.’
Griner’s teammate with the WNBA’s Mercury, Brianna Turner, tweeted, ‘Thank you to every single person that kept Brittney Griner’s name alive.’
Atlanta Dream co-owner and vice president Renee Montgomery called Griner’s release ‘a blessing this Christmas.’
NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks out
“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,’ NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. ‘ We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”