Brittney Griner, the U.S. women’s basketball player who was imprisoned in Russia, is on her way to her home state of Texas, where she will be evaluated medically and reunite with her family.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Thursday said the Houston native will undergo evaluations related to her physical and mental health after 294 days in captivity on drug charges by Russian authorities.
According to a CNBC report, a Biden administration official said that Griner is being flown to a medical facility in San Antonio following her release from prison in a prisoner swap with Russia. CNN also reported a U.S. official said Griner would land in San Antonio.
A spokesperson for San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center referred questions on Griner’s arrival to the U.S. State Department.
“The U.S. government is focused on ensuring that Brittney Griner and her family’s well-being are prioritized and that all available assistance be offered in an appropriate manner,” the State Department press office said in a statement. “Due to privacy reasons and out of respect to the family, we do not have anything additional to provide.”
Griner had been detained in a Russian prison for nearly 10 months after she was arrested in a Moscow airport in February, when airport officials reportedly discovered vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil in her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison for smuggling illegal drugs into the country.
The White House determined she was wrongfully detained and called the legal proceedings a “sham.” Griner pleaded guilty to the charges in September and apologized for the incident, calling it an “honest mistake.”
“She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home,” President Joe Biden said from the White House’s Roosevelt Room alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner. “After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along.”
As he made the announcement that Griner was being released in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, Biden said Griner was found in “good spirits.”
“She’s relieved to finally be heading home. And the fact remains that she’s lost months of her life, experienced a needless trauma, and she deserves space, privacy, and time with her loved ones to recover and heal from her time being wrongfully detained,” Biden said.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing that once Griner lands in the U.S., she’ll be offered appropriate care and support, including medical screenings.
When asked when Griner’s plane will land in the U.S. during Thursday morning’s news conference — which began at 8:38 a.m. Eastern time — Biden said “in the next 24 hours.”
Engelbert said the WNBA community is eager to have Griner home.
“We don’t want to bombard Brittney. She’ll get evaluation and care through
kind of, call it a repatriation system here into the U.S. through the government resources, and we are here, the Players Association, I’m sure, is already working on this as well,” said Engelbert during a news conference on Thursday.
“We have our mental health resources certainly ready. But let’s let her get home, reunite with her family, go through the processes that she’ll go through,” she said. “And then we’re here. I think the players really want to see her. And they’ll fly anywhere to go see her.”