American Brittney Griner, who was released from a Russian penal colony last December as part of a prisoner swap, has signed a one-year contract to play for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, the team said on Tuesday, February 21.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star, was arrested in February 2022 at an airport outside Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
She was subsequently convicted of drug smuggling and later transferred to one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies, where former inmates have described torture, harsh beatings and slave labor conditions.
Griner was released last December in a prisoner swap with Russia in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout, a deal that was arranged after months of talks during a time of high tension between the two countries after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.
Griner last played for the Mercury in the 2021 WNBA season when she had one of the best years of her career and averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists over 30 games.
Picked No. 1 overall by the Mercury in the 2013 draft, Griner is the league’s all-time leader in blocked shots per game with 2.8 and was part of the Mercury’s 2014 WNBA title team. – Rappler.com
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