After almost 10 months, the WNBA star has been freed in a prisoner exchange


Brittney Griner is an openly lesbian American basketball player who has proven herself to be a champion in the sport and has achieved plenty of accomplishments over the course of her international career. Although it has not been easy for her as a Black lesbian in sports – she has dealt with both racism and homophobia – she has been lucky enough to have a strong support system, a team that embraces her, and a loving wife, Cherelle Griner.

In 2013, Brittney did an interview with Sports Illustrated where she was vocal about how she wanted the younger generation of queer people to see that everything was okay after she came out, and feel that it was okay for them to be themselves. When the world found out that she was gay, there was no official “coming out” because she had never actively hidden her sexuality, and this meant it wasn’t too difficult to address.

On 17 February, Brittney was on her way to play for a Russian basketball team when she was taken into Russian custody at the airport because a vape cartridge containing cannabis oil was found in her luggage. She was later charged with smuggling narcotic drugs, and on 4 August she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.

During the time that Brittney spent in detention, she had the support of her teammates in the US, and her wife Cherelle Griner – who tirelessly advocated for President Biden to take action in making sure that she was safely returned home. Brittney’s reputation as a basketball star and an American hero was instrumental in the attention given to this issue, and to the relief of her loved ones, on 8 October she was freed in a prisoner exchange for Viktor Bout – a Russian arms dealer who was imprisoned in the US. Brittney has now reunited with her wife and is adjusting to life back in the US.

Despite many people celebrating her return, there are some who believe that she did not deserve to be released because she had previously protested the United States National Anthem, and her crime warranted the harsh sentencing. Yet, regardless of where any individual stands on this – there still remains the issue that women of colour and LGBTQIA women are largely overrepresented in US prisons, and hopefully witnessing the reunion of Brittney Griner with her wife will compel the US government to take further action in tackling the issues within the US criminal justice system.


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