REUNION: Russian prisoner freed by Biden rejoins WNBA team

REUNION: Russian prisoner freed by Biden rejoins WNBA team

One of the WNBA’s major stars rejoined her team after the President freed her from a lengthy Russian prison sentence.

Brittney Griner came a long way to be in an arena on what would otherwise be a normal Friday night in Phoenix.

But there was nothing normal about a WNBA basketball game attended by over 10,000 fans and Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, the Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff.

Brittney Griner is out of a Russian prison and back on the basketball court.

The 6’9 center smiled broadly, acknowledging the fans who gave her a standing ovation, welcoming her.

She looks like she hasn’t missed a beat, doing what she does best, stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, six rebounds, and four blocked shots in 25 minutes.

She is good.

A WNBA game consists of 40 minutes. Playing two-thirds of the game means she is rested, in shape, and very much needed.

Her Phoenix Mercury team lost the game 94-71 to the Los Angeles Sparks as the WNBA started its 27th season.

It is doubtful that any fans left the arena feeling like they witnessed a “loss.”

The Griner saga has been tense and utterly absurd from the very beginning. A CNN article in the days following the arrest serves as a reminder of what Griner went through:

Russian authorities accused Griner of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance after flying from New York to a Moscow airport. Now, the mystery surrounding her detainment in a country she’s worked in for years has come to symbolize the growing tensions between the US and Russia during Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

The “narcotic” was not a narcotic. It was later determined to be marijuana, legal in many states. It is well-established that many professional basketball players use marijuana as a pain reliever and relaxant.

Her release should just be a happy ending.

But everything in the United States touches on race.

Given that Griner is black, the situation was no exception.

Leading Republicans couldn’t let this opportunity to practice the lowest kind of identity politics go by. Truth Out reports:

Bittney Griner had barely landed in the U.S. before the right-wing media blasted the prisoner trade agreement that secured her freedom in exchange for the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“To exchange the Merchant of Death for this,” sneered GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy on CNN, “It’s made us weaker, it’s made Putin stronger.” Former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social that Griner “openly hates our Country,” and Tucker Carlson said Griner hated America because she supported Black Lives Matter.

There is no doubt that giving up  Viktor Bout is highly unfortunate.

But what is one going to do?

Allow Putin to keep the WNBA star in prison for another five years?

ONLY in Tucker’s world does “supporting Black Lives Matter” mean someone hates America.

Take a little breath and enjoy that Tucker now hates Fox News. 

Russia is run single-handily by Putin. Even if the American government went to The Hague and argued that Russia should be forced to release her, Russia would ignore the order.

The U.S. spent ten months trying to get a better deal.

It turned into one in which the U.S. got two to three of its unjustly held citizens back.

Ultimately, our State Department, which happens to be staffed with experts, determined that this was it.

This was the only deal on the table.

America gets its citizens back, one way or another.

Last night, the Phoenix Mercury and WNBA got their star center back.

I can be reached at jasonmiciak@gmail or @JasonMiciak

Jason Miciak

Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing.