Brittney Griner is speaking out for the first time since being released from a Russian prison.
The WNBA star and two-time Olympian arrived back on American soil last week in a one-for-one prisoner swap after ten months of wrongful detention.
“It feels so good to be home!” Griner wrote in an Instagram post Friday morning. “The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”
From the moment Griner arrived stateside, many have speculated as to when she might return to play in the WNBA—if at all. But Griner cleared that up right away: “I also want to make one thing very clear,” she wrote. “I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.”
The Biden administration had brokered a deal to exchange Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was being held in US custody. Since her return home on December 8, Griner, who played for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, had been staying at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where she received medical evaluations and was given time and space to reacclimate to her old life. CNN confirmed Friday morning that Griner has departed San Antonio and is on her way back home to Phoenix. She was reportedly surprised on the plane by Phoenix Mercury GM Jim Pitman, president of the Mercury Vince Kozar, and her teammate Diana Taurasi.
In her message, she thanked each person who advocated for her and demanded her release—“especially” her wife Cherelle. She went on to express gratitude for her family, her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, the Phoenix Mercury, her fellow WNBA players, and her entire “WNBA family,” among other government officials who helped bring her home. Griner and Cherelle have continued to express support for fellow detainee Paul Whelan, who was at one point rumored to be considered for the prisoner swap, but remains in Russian custody.
“President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too,” she wrote. “I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”
Griner noted that she’ll be transitioning back to regular life with her family over the holidays and make sure she is “equipped with the tools” to keep her marching forward.
We’ve missed you, BG. Welcome home.