Brittney Griner returns to her home field for the first time since being released from a Russian penal colony as Phoenix Mercury prepares for next week’s season opener
Brittney Griner has returned to WNBA action for the first time since being released from detention in a Russian penal colony as the Phoenix Mercury prepares for next week’s season opener against the Los Angeles Sparks.
The 32-year-old made her way into the paint with her back to the basket and pulled up a jumper just before being doubled over by two Sparks players to mark her basketball comeback, three months after landing on US soil following her arrest in Moscow for drug smuggling in February last year.
‘No. 42 back on her home field!,” Mercury’s official account shared on Twitter.
Last month, in April, Griner took a flight to Washington, DC, to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
After going through her initial training with the Phoenix Mercury, she boarded a plane to New York to attend the Met Gala, chatting with Usher, Patrick Mahomes and Dwyane Wade before heading back to the desert. Griner did not return until after 1 a.m. and was back on the field with the Mercury later that morning.
Phoenix’s Brittney Griner had 8 points on 1-4 shooting in the first half against the LA Sparks
The Mercury Center marked her WNBA comeback after attending the MET Gala earlier in May
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Griner said on May 3 at Mercury’s media day. “I have a lot of respect for the stars who do that. It’s not me. I don’t know how they do it.
“It was great, two great honors to be there, but I’m taking a nap today.”
With the WNBA season upon us, with the Mercury’s opening game against the Sparks airing May 19 on ESPN, Phoenix hopes Griner’s return hope the franchise can run to the finals again.
Griner drives to Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike in the first half of a WNBA preseason game between the Spark and Mercury
Griner, center, celebrates from the couch as she watches her teammates vs. the Sparks
In addition, the added exposure to detention in Russia for having cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage has given Griner a platform to advocate for other Americans being held abroad.
“It’s cool because now I can reach even more people and bring them to the WNBA, but also keep them updated on other people who are still left behind now and trying to get home,” Griner said.
“Just using that bigger outlet to keep supporting others who don’t have the spotlight or the media attention they should be able to get.”
Griner has been an LGBTQ+ activist since he first came out in 2013 and became the first openly gay athlete to be sponsored by Nike.
She appeared last month at a women’s empowerment luncheon at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network event and said earlier in May that she will use her elevated platform to continue fighting for LGBTQ+ rights at her first press conference since being released from prison .