Brittney Griner has made her first public comments since her return to the US from Russian detention last week, thanking those who worked to secure her release and insisting she intends to return to the WNBA this season.
"It feels so good to be home!" Griner wrote in an Instagram post she shared Friday morning. "The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going.
"From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help," Griner wrote.
The basketball star had been held by Russian authorities since February after being arrested at a Moscow airport with cartridges of hashish oil in her luggage. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years in detention, with US officials and Griner advocates saying she was being used as a political pawn.
President Joe Biden secured Griner's release as part of a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Critics said the president should have done more to also secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on charges of being a spy, but the Biden administration has said this was the best available deal.
"President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you," Griner wrote on Instagram. "I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole."
A US Army photographer also captured the moment she was reunited with her wife, Cherelle Griner.
Griner has been receiving treatment at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio since her return to US soil last week.
That treatment has included participating in the Department of Defense’s Post Isolation Support Activities, a program that helps military personnel recovering from extended detention overseas readjust to normal life.
"I appreciate the time and care to make sure I was okay and equipped with the tools for this new journey," Griner said on Instagram as she thanked the PISA staff, adding that she would now be transitioning home.
"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season," Griner added, "and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon."