Britney Griner’s Release
By Kalia Harrington
Griner is one of the best basketball players in the world. She won a W.N.B.A. championship with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014 and has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team. But she still played for her Russian team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, for several years during W.N.B.A. off-seasons. Griner was detained on Feb. 17 after the Russian authorities accused her of carrying hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Griner was traveling to Russia to rejoin her professional team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, which she played for during the W.N.B.A. off-season. The Russian Federal Customs Service said that a sniffer dog had prompted it to search Griner’s carry-on luggage, and that it had found vape cartridges containing hashish oil. Hashish oil is a marijuana concentrate that has a high concentration of the psychoactive chemical THC, and it is commonly sold in cartridges that are used in vape pens. While in prison, Griner was seen as a hostage held by President Vladimir V. Putin’s government as Russia was subjected to a broad swath of international sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine a week after her arrest. To get Griner and Whelan home, the U.S. would agree to the release of Viktor Bout, an imprisoned Russian arms dealer with the ominous nickname of “the Merchant of Death.” On Thursday, Bout and Griner began their journeys home after a dramatic one-for-one swap; yet Whelan remains imprisoned in Russia. The deal wasn’t all that U.S. officials had wanted. But after months of difficult private negotiations and angry public accusations, it was, they concluded, the best they could get. It came together in the past few days after the administration begrudgingly accepted that although the Russians would not budge on Whelan, they were prepared to relent on Griner, creating imperfect but ultimately workable options for a U.S. government under pressure to make a deal. Now that Britney Griner is free, she announced she would be playing in the up and coming WNBA season.