Brittney Griner’s Supporters Secured Her Freedom

Basketball star Brittney Griner landed in the USA early Friday after practically 10 months of detention in Russia. Griner was freed Thursday in a dramatic prisoner swap between the USA and Russia, with the Biden administration agreeing to free Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms seller who was serving a 25-year sentence. Griner had been held in Russia since February, when she was arrested at a Moscow airport for possessing a small quantity of hashish oil, and her standing as an overtly homosexual Black lady made liberating her from a rustic with anti-LGBT legal guidelines a urgent concern for supporters. However journalist Dave Zirin says the sports activities world was nonetheless sluggish to rally to Griner’s trigger on account of sexism, racism and homophobia. “The quantity of erasure and deliberate ignoring of Brittney Griner’s case was obvious to anyone who listens to sports activities radio or watches sports activities tv,” says Zirin, sports activities editor for The Nation journal and host of the Fringe of Sports activities podcast. “If it was Steph Curry or Tom Brady imprisoned abroad … the cacophony would have been so loud. But with Brittney Griner there was silence.”


This can be a rush transcript. Copy will not be in its remaining kind.

AMY GOODMAN: WNBA star Brittney Griner is free. She’s again in the USA after practically 10 months jailed in Russia. She was freed Thursday in a dramatic prisoner swap between the USA and Russia. As a part of the deal, the Biden administration freed Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms seller who was serving a 25-year sentence. The prisoner swap passed off on the runway of an airport in Abu Dhabi. Early this morning, a aircraft carrying Brittney Griner landed in San Antonio, Texas, the place she’ll endure a medical analysis at a army hospital. Brittney Griner had been held in Russia since February, when she was arrested on the Moscow airport for possessing a small quantity of hashish oil. President Biden introduced the prisoner swap Thursday morning on the White Home.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: She’s secure. She’s on a aircraft. She’s on her approach dwelling, after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held underneath insupportable circumstances. Brittney will quickly be again within the arms of her family members, and he or she ought to have been there all alongside.

AMY GOODMAN: Brittney Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, additionally spoke on the White Home. Throughout her remarks, she made reference to Paul Whelan, the American former marine who stays jailed in Russia.

CHERELLE GRINER: At the moment my household is entire, however, as you all are conscious, there are such a lot of different households who aren’t entire. And so, BG is just not right here to say this, however I’ll gladly converse on her behalf and say that BG and I’ll stay dedicated to the work of getting each American dwelling, together with Paul, whose household is in our hearts right this moment as we have a good time BG being dwelling. We do perceive that there are nonetheless folks out right here who’re enduring what I endured the final 9 months of lacking tremendously their liked one. So, thanks, all people, in your assist. And right this moment is only a blissful day for me and my household, so I’m going to smile proper now. Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: The Biden administration had initially proposed a two-for-one prisoner swap involving each Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, however that was rejected by Russia. On Thursday, Paul Whelan’s brother David advised CNN he supported Biden’s resolution to safe Brittney Griner’s freedom.

DAVID WHELAN: I’m completely supportive of it. I feel to extend the punishment of 1 American in a international hostage state of affairs, within the hope that you simply would possibly be capable of convey dwelling two of them, is totally the improper name for the U.S. president to make. An American in that state of affairs who has a chance of coming dwelling, I feel the U.S. president has to convey them dwelling. And sadly for my brother and for our household, it’s not our member of the family, however I feel, from the angle of Individuals, that’s the suitable resolution.

AMY GOODMAN: We start right this moment’s present with Dave Zirin, host of the Fringe of Sports activities podcast and sports activities editor for The Nation journal, the place his newest article is headlined “A Vindication for Agitation: Brittney Griner Is Coming Dwelling.”

Properly, Brittney Griner is free, Dave Zirin. Have been you shocked by the information yesterday and the velocity with which she has come dwelling to San Antonio, Texas? She grew up in Houston. Speak in regards to the significance of the way you imagine she was freed.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, Amy. Thanks a lot for having me.

After I heard that Brittney Griner was going to be freed, I used to be floored. I had tears in my eyes. My telephone was blowing up about this, clearly. I’ve been investigating and masking this story for months. And, no, this was not one thing I anticipated, as a result of earlier in that week you heard that negotiations had been once more breaking down.

And I feel it’s so necessary, as we focus on the ins and outs of this, that we don’t lose the plot. And that’s that Brittney Griner is coming dwelling. Brittney Griner goes to be again together with her household. Brittney Griner goes to be again together with her household for the vacations, for goodness’ sakes. And now we have to do not forget that ths is a second of celebration and a second of pleasure, throughout a time the place celebration and pleasure are in brief provide.

AMY GOODMAN: And speak about, effectively, what your title was about, the agitation, who was there for her and who wasn’t, why you suppose she is free right this moment.

DAVE ZIRIN: Sure. When Brittney Griner was first imprisoned, once we first bought phrase of it in late February and early March, the response from the sports activities world, you possibly can actually characterize it as current in two totally different lanes. In a single lane, you had a sports activities world that’s awash in racism, sexism and homophobia, and Brittney Griner is, in fact, a Black queer lady. And the quantity of erasure and deliberate, deliberate ignoring of Brittney Griner’s case was obvious to anyone who listens to sports activities radio or watches sports activities tv. I imply, if it was Steph Curry or Tom Brady imprisoned abroad in a Russian jail going through 9 years of exhausting labor, I imply, the Earth would have opened up, the cacophony would have been so loud, but with Brittney Griner there was silence.

There was one other lane of individuals, as effectively, who love Brittney Griner, folks within the WNBA and NBA communities, who, on the recommendation from the State Division, had been silent, as a result of the State Division mentioned, “Delicate negotiations are going down, so we don’t need any outcry about Brittney in any way.” And that created this veil of silence, and even disgrace, about Brittney Griner being arrested.

After which there was Cherelle Griner in all her heroism, talking out, saying, “The heck with this silence. We have to shine mild on this and lift Brittney Griner’s title, so there may be rather more of an effort to agitate to ensure that Brittney Griner’s title — and Paul Whelan’s title — are on the prime of the State Division’s to-do listing, on the prime of Antony Blinken’s to-do listing.” And that agitation grew and grew, each within the sports activities world and amongst followers. Individuals made buttons and T-shirts and took them to video games. The sports activities world may not be silent. Steph Curry talked about Brittney Griner on the ring ceremony for the Golden State Warriors. And the cacophony did begin to develop.

And I do imagine that, together with, frankly, the truth that Russia is dropping to Ukraine and Vladimir Putin felt like he wanted a win of some type, I feel that’s why this commerce passed off. So, in a single diploma, you possibly can say that the Ukrainian resistance is why Brittney Griner is coming dwelling.

AMY GOODMAN: Properly, White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denied claims by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that they’d any involvement within the mediation efforts that secured the discharge of Brittney Griner from the Russian labor jail camp.

PRESS SECRETARY KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: The one international locations that negotiated this deal had been the USA and Russia. And there was no mediation concerned. We’re grateful for the UAE, because the president talked about, as I’m mentioning now, for facilitating using their territory for the change to happen. We’re additionally grateful to different international locations, together with Saudi Arabia, that launched the problem of our wrongfully detained Individuals with Russian authorities.

AMY GOODMAN: A joint assertion by the UAE and Saudi Arabia launched Thursday had mentioned that Brittney Griner’s launch, quote, “highlighted the necessary function performed by the leaderships of the 2 brotherly international locations in selling dialogue between all events.” Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, I imply, so this was an amazing effort by all corners to get Brittney Griner dwelling. And there’s something that I feel must be mentioned about this that’s so necessary. I imply, so many individuals on the suitable wing — I do know you’re going to speak about Viktor Bout within the subsequent phase. However, my goodness, the fainting couches about doing this commerce for Viktor Bout, when the U.S. is the most important arms seller on the planet, is a bit powerful to swallow. However I do know you’re going to speak about that within the subsequent phase.

However a very powerful factor is that we fought for Brittney Griner to return dwelling. And I do know there are lots of people on the market who say, “Properly, now we have these issues on this nation. Shouldn’t we give attention to them, about prisons, in regards to the drug legal guidelines on this nation?” However now we have to have a worldwide perspective about jail abolition, in regards to the battle on medication. And that’s why Brittney Griner’s freedom needs to be seen as a victory for anyone who provides a rattling about social justice on this nation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you will have this announcement yesterday on the White Home, Cherelle Griner smiling ear to ear, Brittney Griner’s spouse. And simply hours later, you will have 39 Republicans becoming a member of with the Democrats within the Home of Representatives voting to assist marriage equality. On the identical time, in Russia, you will have Putin on Monday signing a fiercely anti-LGBTQ legislation into impact, making it harmful to be LGBTQ in Russia. Are you able to speak about what Brittney Griner confronted as a lesbian, as an African American lady in Russia in jail?

DAVE ZIRIN: Properly, in line with experiences by individuals who have been within the jail that she was going to be in for the following 9 years, a labor camp in Mordovia, the racism, the, in fact, anti-Americanism and the homophobia are so intense that we are able to say that Brittney Griner’s life would have been hell. And there’s no saying that she would have even survived the following 9 years. As well as, in Mordovia, we all know that there are not any medical companies to be — we don’t even know if Brittney Griner, in her 6-foot, 8-inch body, would have had a mattress that she may sleep in. That’s what she was going through over the following 9 years. So getting her dwelling was about the truth that we don’t know if she may have survived in such a state of affairs. And I encourage folks to learn the phrases of Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, who spent three years in the identical Mordovian jail. It’s completely chilling, what Brittney Griner would have confronted. And her coming dwelling, I actually do imagine, is about saving her life, in addition to returning her to her household.

AMY GOODMAN: And at last, in a short time, Dave, on one other topic — you’re actually following the FIFA World Cup in Qatar — the dying of yet one more employee, and the response by the Qatari authorities that dying is a part of the life course of. Are you able to reply?

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, yeah. Stunning, disturbing. This can be a World Cup that involves us soaked in blood and grime. Now, different World Cups have had their share of injustices, no query. However what’s taking place in Qatar is a criminal offense in opposition to humanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin, sports activities editor for The Nation journal, host of the Fringe of Sports activities podcast. We’re going to hyperlink to his new article in The Nation journal, “A Vindication for Agitation: Brittney Griner Is Coming Dwelling.” Go to

Subsequent up, WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed in a dramatic prisoner swap in change for Viktor Bout, the convicted Russian arms seller. Loads has been product of him promoting weapons to everybody from al-Qaeda to the Taliban. What about being paid tens of millions of {dollars} by the USA? Stick with us.