Brittney Griner reached the United States early Friday morning, returning home after her 294-day detention in Russia.
What comes next for the WNBA star?
The Phoenix Mercury center had been imprisoned in Russia since February, but the U.S. government negotiated for her release in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.
The next step of her journey starts in Texas. She landed at the U.S. Army’s Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, and photos showed her smiling as she exited the plane.
“So happy to have Brittney back on U.S. soil,” said Roger Carstens, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “Welcome home BG!”
Brittney Griner is back in the United States: pic.twitter.com/1c6kALlpdg— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) December 9, 2022
Brittney Griner is back in the United States: pic.twitter.com/1c6kALlpdg
From there, she was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where she will receive any necessary treatment, the facility said in a statement. She may need medical and nutritional treatment, and the facility will also give attention to her mental health, ESPN reported.
“The U.S. government is focused on ensuring that Brittney Griner and her family’s well-being are prioritized and that all assistance available be offered in an appropriate manner,” Brooke Army Medical Center said in its statement.
When she is ready, the plan is to move her from Brooke Army Medical Center to a private location, ESPN reported.
Griner’s family released a statement thanking those who helped orchestrate her return and asking for privacy in the coming days and weeks.
“We ask that you respect our privacy as we embark on this road to healing,” the family said in its statement.
Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner, who was drafted by the team in 2019 and has played with Griner since then, also expressed her support for Griner as she returns home.
“The primary concern is making sure her mental health is progressing and she’s able to recover from the past 294 days,” Turner said. “She could never step foot on a court again and I will still support her relentlessly.”
BG is so much more than a athlete. The primary concern is making sure her mental health is progressing and she’s able to recover from the past 294 days. She could never step foot on a court again and I will still support her relentlessly.— Brianna Turner (@_Breezy_Briii) December 8, 2022
BG is so much more than a athlete. The primary concern is making sure her mental health is progressing and she’s able to recover from the past 294 days. She could never step foot on a court again and I will still support her relentlessly.
Will Griner return to the basketball court? That decision remains entirely in the hands of Griner herself, with Turner, the Mercury and the rest of the WNBA behind her in whatever she decides.
“I think the players will want to see her and they’ll fly anywhere to go see her,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said at a press conference Thursday. “We’re going to give some time and space, but she’ll know we’re all ready to help.”
The league will follow Griner’s lead in terms of how she wants to move forward, in the short term and in the long term, Engelbert said.
“We’re obviously going to respect the privacy of this intricate and critical time of her coming back home,” she said. “I’d love to call her and see her, but we’re going to give her the appropriate space and time for that. We’ll follow what Brittney and her family want to do about re-engaging with the WNBA and our players.”
𝟏𝟐.𝟖.𝟐𝟐A day that will always have a special place in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/HSEB5RbPdL— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) December 8, 2022
𝟏𝟐.𝟖.𝟐𝟐A day that will always have a special place in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/HSEB5RbPdL