Brittney Griner Returns Home

January 1, 2022 | By Shane Phelps Law
Brittney Griner Returns Home

WNBA star Brittney Griner has returned home after almost a year in Russian custody. Keep reading to learn more.


The Houston native and basketball star was detained for allegedly carrying vape canisters of cannabis oil into the country when she arrived in Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg team and was sentenced to spend nine years at a penal colony.

While Griner admitted to carrying the vape cannisters, she recognized that it was a poor decision before the Russian court as many in the US pointed out that these cannisters are legal as long as the product has a limited amount of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol.


Tensions over this matter have been high as Griner was detained in a country at war with Ukraine and at a time when diplomatic relations with Russia are at a crossroads. There were also concerns about her safety as a Black, openly gay woman in a country where LGBTQ communities are persecuted by a hostile government. Despite her contract to work with a Russian basketball league, these factors could have jeopardized her case further and led to her endangerment.

Other complications involved another American prisoner, former marine Paul Whelan. Whelan Is a US, British, Irish, and Canadian citizen detained in 2018 for allegedly being involved in an intelligence operation. The United States government attempted to negotiate for his release along with Griner’s, but Russia refused. Instead, they accepted an exchange with Griner and arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Brittney has since been released and has returned to the United States to her wife, friends, and family and to her Arizona home. The WNBA has made it clear that their players will not be competing in Russia in 2023 due to Griner’s case and the Russian-Ukrainian war.


When an individual is accused of a crime overseas, they are often subject to that nation’s laws except in very rare circumstances. In most cases, the federal government may have to get involved if the individual is convicted and detained and might need to negotiate a prisoner exchange or other agreement to secure their release. Griner’s family and friends are happy to have her back and ready to help her heal from nearly a year in Russian custody.

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, contact Shane Phelps Law.