WASHINGTON — Brittney Griner is speaking out for the first time since her return to the United States in a dramatic prisoner swap with Russia.
In a statement posted on Instagram, the WNBA star thanked everyone who advocated for her release and credited her faith and the love she felt from so many for helping her get through the monthslong ordeal.
"It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn," Griner wrote. "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's post included a photo of her stepping off the plane in Texas exactly one week ago and a photo of her hugging her wife, Cherelle.
"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. 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," she added.
Griner also thanked everyone at the medical military facility in San Antonio, where she underwent medical and mental evaluations upon her return to the U.S.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist also declared that she plans to return to the WNBA in 2023.
"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, 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," Griner said.
Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. The U.S. State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.
Her release was secured last week in exchange for the release of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that U.S officials said were to be used against Americans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.