Upon return to the United States from Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner has been staying in a residential environment housing near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Griner reunited with family members, including spouse Cherelle after spending months in a Russian women’s prison.
Griner was arrested in February 2022 while going through customs at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. while returning to play for Russian basketball club team, UMMC Ekaterinburg. Russian authorities found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage. By May, the Biden U.S. Department of State had declared Griner “wrongfully detained” and in July, the basketball player pleaded guilty in a Russian court. Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison, and an appeal was denied Oct. 25.
Griner’s arrival was celebrated across mainstream media reports, but in reality, there was national controversy. The Biden Administration selected the basketball star for a Dec. 8, 2022 prisoner swap exchange with the Russian government for the dangerous and convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, infamously known as the ‘Merchant of Death’. Many Americans had been pushing for the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
In a statement following Griner’s release, David Whelan said that the Biden administration warned the family ahead of time that his brother Paul would not be released as part of the exchange.
“That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us,” the statement added. “And a catastrophe for Paul”.
“If bad actors like Russia are going to grab innocent Americans, the US needs a swifter, more direct response, and to be prepared in advance,” he added. “I can’t imagine he [Paul] retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point. It’s clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes.”
Griner’s return party at Brooke Army Medical Center, near Fort Sam Houston, included a Christmas tree, Dr. Pepper, and a barbecue courtesy of friends and family.
About 200 miles northeast, in Waco, Texas, the first widely known public event organized in support of Griner occurred. Griner has deep roots at Baylor University, where the basketball star led the 2012 Lady Bears to a 40-0 record and a national championship and won Olympic gold medals with Team USA in 2016 and 2020.
In March 2010, after getting fouled by Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle, Griner threw a roundhouse punch and broke Barncastle’s nose. Griner was ejected and given a NCAA game suspension. Kim Mulkey, then Baylor’s coach, added an extra game to the suspension.
In a May 2013 interview with ESPN, Griner said Coach Mulkey told players not to be open publicly about their sexuality because it would hurt recruiting and cast the program in a bad light. Baylor, the largest Baptist Christian school in the world, has a “Statement on Human Sexuality” in its student handbook. In it, the school spells out its position that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Griner’s first public celebration of the return from Russian prison in December 2022 resulted in little fanfare for this event. Billed as a “big bash,” only 20 people showed up in Waco.
Old friends say Brittany Griner was known as a tomboy. Born into a military family, Griner grew up playing sports. and turning 18, started dressing differently. Griner started wearing makeup with hair dyed blonde. Friends noticed something was wrong and that’s when Brittany told them that it was transgender.
“I’m transgendered,” said Brittany. “It means I am a woman trapped inside a man’s body.”
Her father stopped talking to him. He would yell at her in front of other people. And he wouldn’t let her go anywhere without him.
Brittany says that her mother didn’t understand what being transgender meant. She thought it was just a phase.
“She doesn’t think I’ll ever change my mind,” said Brittany. “And she thinks if I do, I’ll regret it.”
A few years ago, reporter Morty Ann spoke with Griner about his/her body and outlook: wearing size 17 shoes and her choice of gender and her parents. A few weeks later, conversation around Griner changed. He and then-fiancé Glory Johnson were arrested at their home in Arizona for assault and disorderly conduct.
The police report described the incident as a “mutual fight”. On April 28, Griner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct (the assault charge was dropped) and agreed to undergo 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling, after which the disorderly conduct charge would also be dropped.
Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charges of disorderly conduct and assault. On June 5, less than a month after the two were married, Griner filed for an annulment. Following the arrest, the WNBA suspended both Griner and Johnson for seven games. Griner began playing again on June 27 of 2016.
Brittney’s next big relationship was with Cherelle Watson, later known as Cherelle Griner. They were wed in June 2019.
In 2009, Griner was named the nation’s No. 1 high school women’s basketball player and was selected to the 2009 Phoenix Mercury All-American basketball team.
🔹In 2012, Griner received the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete. In 2013, Griner signed an endorsement deal with Nike. At 6 feet 9 inches tall, Griner wears men’s US size 17 shoes and has an arm length of 87.5 inches.
In San Antonio, Griner announced plans to return to the Phoenix Mercury and play this upcoming WNBA season.
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