Dawn Staley issues statement on Brittney Griner’s release from Russia

Gail Burton/AP

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian prison in a prisoner swap, according to multiple news sources, including President Joe Biden.

South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley was among several in the sports world advocating for her release, and she put out an official statement on Thursday about the news.

“It’s an incredible day – we are so thankful to have our sister and friend coming home!” Staley wrote. “Thanks first to God, who I believe has always had a plan for Brittney; thanks to the work of the Biden Administration – President (Joe) Biden, Vice President (Kamala) Harris, Secretary (Antony) Blinken and more – and thanks to everyone who kept her name and story in the public eye during her detainment.

“My heart is full, but I know that the work is not over for BG; and we all need to continue to throw our arms around her as she processes everything that she has been through in these 293 days. As joyful as we are, I know BG would also want us to keep in our hearts and minds other Americans wrongfully detained overseas and their families and friends. We know what you are going through, and we continue to pray for you as well.”

Griner was arrested in Russia on Feb. 17 for the possession of cannabis oil and was detained for about 10 months. On Aug. 4, she was sentenced to more than nine years in prison.

Since then, Staley has been one of Griner’s most vocal supporters.

Over the last few months, Staley has posted tweets with the phrase #WeAreBG with a picture of her wearing an orange pin on her shirt with the same phrase.

She’s worn a shirt or hoodie in support of Griner in each of South Carolina’s games this year.

Staley said she’s known Griner for 10 years. She coached Griner in the 2020 Olympics and 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.

“I know her heart, I know who she is as a person,” Staley told reporters after the team’s first practice in September. “She’s a human being. She’s an American over in Russia at the worst time anybody can be in Russia. Why wouldn’t I want to send prayers her way and just make sure that she’s in a good head space?

“I know there are up days and down days, and days in which you lose hope. I just want her to continue to have hope that people are voicing their thoughts and their prayers on her behalf to keep her in a great space.”

The other person in the one-for-one swap is Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer. Bout was sentenced to 25 years in U.S. prison in 2012.

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