WNBA Star Griner Freed in Prisoner Swap

    Photo: AP

    The Facts

    • Following a high-level negotiation between the US and Russia, detained US basketball star Brittney Griner was released on Thursday in a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. US Pres. Biden announced that Griner was safe and "on a plane" home.

    • Russia had been holding the two-time Olympic gold medalist since detaining her at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in February for carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. Her detention coincided with the start of the war in Ukraine, which complicated US relations with the Kremlin.


    The Spin

    Republican narrative

    Biden is treating this like a victory, and it might be in terms of public relations because of Griner’s status as a star athlete. But the fact remains that Whelan, a man who served his country in the armed forces, has been left behind, and the US has clearly been taken advantage of in this trade of the “Merchant of Death” for a basketball player.

    Democratic narrative

    Of course, it’s disappointing that Whelan remains imprisoned. But Griner’s release, in the face of sexist and racist backlash even from her fellow Americans, is a triumph. And with Griner’s family working to keep Whelan’s name in the news, perhaps this is a step toward freeing him in the near future.


    Political split

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