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Brittney Griner re-signs with WNBA after Russian prison release

The United States' Brittney Griner (15) shoots over Japan's Maki Takada (8) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Women's Basketball Final at Saitama Super Arena on Aug. 8, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
February 21, 2023

Brittney Griner has re-signed with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, with an official statement still pending, after the two-time Olympic gold medalist was freed from a Russian prison in a prisoner exchange.

According to CNBC, Griner had previously stated her intentions of playing in the 2023 season with her longtime team, the Mercury. 

She has played for the Phoenix Mercury her entire career, starting in the 2013 season. She was forced to miss the entirety of the 2022 season due to being held in a Russian penal colony following her arrest for allegedly bringing vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage through a Moscow airport. 

READ MORE: Brittney Griner released in Russia/US prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout

Griner was freed from a Russian prison in December after the Biden administration negotiated for her release in a prisoner exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

She previously pleaded guilty in a Russian court in July, following her arrest in February 2022. She stated that she had no criminal intent, as the cannabis oil was prescribed to treat chronic pain. 

READ MORE: Brittney Griner sends letter to President Biden from Russian prison: ‘I’m terrified I might be here forever’

She said she packed them inadvertently after being in a rush for her flight. 

After her release in the prisoner exchange, Griner described her imprisonment as an emotional battle, writing on Instagram, “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going,” further stating, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”