WNBA star Britney Griner’s safe return to the U.S. Friday after being imprisoned in Russia for about 10 months was marked by a stop at a Texas military medical facility for a routine evaluation. said the U.S. State Department.
Griner arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas early Friday morning. This was the next leg on my journey back to American soil after the U.S. government described it as an unlawful detention that left my family and loved ones with little information or comfort.
“The well-being of Britney and her family is our top priority at this time, and we are committed to ensuring that all available assistance is provided in an appropriate manner,” U.S. State Department Deputy Press Secretary Vedant Patel said at a news conference on Friday. I am focused.
Authorities have not disclosed how long Griner has been in the medical center, but the basketball star was “in good spirits” and “incredibly kind” after his release, said a spokesman for the National Security Council. A John Kirby told CNN.
Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February on drug charges and subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison, was part of a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia against notorious convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. released.
The exchange, which took months of negotiations, took place on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi’s airport on Thursday.
Shortly after the exchange was successfully completed, US authorities linked Griner to her family. Secretary of State Tony Brinken said the call was “hauntingly moving” when he heard Griner talking to his wife, Sherrell, who was attending a meeting in the Oval Office. said.
“Their strength, their resilience, was uninspiring,” said Blinken.
Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told CNN that Griner was able to call her father from the plane.
“They all want to see her, they may want to go home and see her, but it was a happy phone reunion to hear my daughter’s voice. I know
Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’s 18th congressional district, which includes Greiner’s hometown of Houston, said aspects of the current benefits package for two-time Olympians “must be reviewed.”
“I hear she spoke to her family here. She was doing well and was looking forward to seeing them. I know you walked in
In a statement, the Griner family thanked President Joe Biden and his administration, as well as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. His Richardson Center, working on behalf of his family to secure Griner’s release, is looking to succeed Whelan.
“We are so grateful for the kind words, thoughts and prayers, including the Paul and Whelan family, who have generously supported Britney and our family in what we know is a heartbreaking time. ‘ said the statement.
“We pray for Paul’s sake and for the speedy and safe return of all wrongfully detained Americans.”
Griner’s wife, Sherrel Griner, released the latest statement on her Instagram page on Saturday afternoon, thanking the many people she said supported her and Britney during Griner’s imprisonment in Russia. .
As she did in a statement with President Biden on Thursday, Sherrell also called for Paul Whelan and other Americans detained abroad to be repatriated.
“Yesterday, my heart was filled thanks to the efforts of many people! I am humbled by their hearts. is humanity in its purest form!” Griner’s wife wrote.
“As BG and I begin our journey of healing mind, body and spirit, I wanted to personally express my gratitude. I did!” she continued.
While many celebrate Griner’s return, which is seen as a diplomatic victory between two of the world’s largest nations in a bitter confrontation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Whelan’s The fate of his release remains unknown.
A citizen of the US, Ireland, UK and Canada, Whelan is currently incarcerated in a Russian penal colony after being arrested on espionage charges in December 2018, which he denies. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He, like Griner, had been declared wrongfully detained by US authorities.
The United States tried to persuade Russia to trade both Griner and Whelan for arms dealer Bout, but Russian officials were unbending on the issue, and Russia said that both cases of the Americans were said they were treated differently based on the charges they faced.
In an interview with CNN, Whelan expressed disappointment with how the negotiations turned out.
“This is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly,” Whelan told CNN in a telephone interview. I hope you will do all you can to get me home.”
Biden has insisted his administration will continue efforts to bring Whelan home.
“This was not a choice of which Americans to bring home,” Biden said Thursday. “Sadly, for completely unjustified reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Britney’s. never give up.”
Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, told CNN’s Erin Barnett on Friday that the public discussion over a potential swap was “very difficult for my family to hear” and that her siblings believes “it’s being discussed as if his only value is ours. We’ll have to give up for him.”
Asked about her family’s discussions with the U.S. government regarding her brother’s incarceration, Elizabeth Whelan said, “I think I’ve made it pretty clear that my brother is worth more, more value, at least as far as I’m concerned. Russia Worth more than any criminal
CNN speaks to Paul Whelan in exclusive call from Russian prison
Griner’s detention and subsequent return have once again put the spotlight on the pay gap facing female athletes in the U.S. WNBA players are encouraged to go abroad to earn more during the offseason, including in countries such as Russia. Became.
WNBA commissioner Kathy Engelbart told CNN Friday night that efforts to raise salaries continue, but there is still a long way to go.
“For too long, women’s sport has been undervalued and underinvested,” said Engelbert, noting that less than 1% of all corporate sponsorship money goes to women’s sport.
Engelbart also pointed out that the WNBA is a fairly new sports league founded in 1996.
“We’re starting to grow and build real momentum, so we’re chipping away bit by bit,” she said.
Because these changes are happening slowly, Engelbart said he believes players will continue to play abroad, especially since the average tenure in the WNBA is about five years.
“We’re not going to keep them from making more money in leagues outside the US during the offseason. ”
A friend of Griner’s, Angel McCourtley, who also played in the Olympics and WNBA, admitted that she also played for a Russian club during the offseason and made more money there. Considering how I was treated, I said I would not come back.
“Russia has been a place that pays more for our talent than it does in our own country,” McCourtrey told CNN on Friday. It’s sad to say I owe it to my years abroad, and I earn my WNBA salary in a month abroad.
McCoughtry said WNBA players could earn more if they received the same level of promotion as male players.
“If we promote women the same way we do men, people will see,” McCourtley said. Once they know what it is, they’ll come see.