Brittney Griner, WNBA star She was released from a Russian penal colony on Thursday nearly 10 months after she was first detained following her arrest at a Moscow airport.
He talks about a possible prisoner exchange involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout It had been deadlocked for months, but WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert revealed Thursday that the league had learned earlier this week that negotiations with the Kremlin were “intensifying.”
“We knew that the negotiations were intensifying and that a solution was in sight,” Engelbert said during a news conference. “And I personally got emotional about today’s events because you never know until the end.
RELEASE OF BRITTNEY GRINER FROM RUSSIA LEAVES WIFE CHERELLE ‘OVERWHELMED WITH EMOTIONS’
“These are geopolitically complex times right now, so I’m thrilled to have BG reunited with her parents, her mom and dad. As a mom, I can’t imagine the heartbreak they’ve been going through.”
Engelbert later said that he had been in talks with the State Department and the biden administration since the start of Griner’s arrest, but he remained cautiously optimistic this week when he learned of the real possibility that a deal was in the works.
“We knew earlier this week that negotiations were intensifying and that a solution might be on the table, and it was in the offing… But, again, acknowledging with all my experience in the corporate world before coming here, geopolitically very complex and a deal doesn’t close until it’s actually executed and negotiated. So it wasn’t until this morning that we really knew that Brittney would actually be on a plane headed for the United States.”
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Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges laced with cannabis oil inside her luggage. On August 4, Ella Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it. Her sentence was confirmed in October and she was later transferred to a penal colony.
Engelbert repeatedly thanked the Biden administration and the State Department for their role in negotiating Griner’s release, but also extended his gratitude to the nba and some of its best players.
“We needed all the resources we [could get]. NBA players have big brands, big fans, not just here in the United States, but all over the world. And it was very important to have their support,” Engelbert said.
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Griner’s arrest has raised concerns about other WNBA players playing overseas in the offseason to supplement their salaries. Engelbert highlighted the development of the league in recent years with the goal of providing more opportunities for players in the US, but noted that the decision to play internationally is ultimately at the discretion of the players.
“I’ve been a big advocate of letting players do what they want with their offseason,” Engelbert said. “This is their time to figure out what they want to do. But we are also removing the economic model and growing the league.
“Our players will do what’s best for them in consultation with their families and their agents. And we’re certainly here to help them think about security risks and things like that. But I think you’re seeing players take advantage of other opportunities, and we’ll certainly give them more opportunities to do things with the league in the offseason and keep the momentum around the big play they put out on the floor every year.”
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.