By Susan Payne
The WNBA will kick off its season in May – this time, with Brittany Griner back in action.
Griner, who regained her freedom in December of 2022 in a prisoner swap between Russia and the United States, signed a one year contract with Phoenix Mercury, worth $165,100, according to ESPN and reported by the Los Angeles Blade.
Her first court return will be on May 19 against the Sparks at the Crpyto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Following her arrest in Moscow nearly one year ago, Griner missed the entire 2022 season.
Russian authorities said she broke their law by packing vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, according to the Blade. She was sentenced to nine years for drug smuggling.
“Following a sham trial and the unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner, Moscow is transferring her from a prison in Moscow to a remote penal colony,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November, the Blade reported. “It is another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, along with the National LGBTQ Task Force and other advocacy groups, negotiated and protested until an exchange was made for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was 10 years into a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist group, the Blade reported.
ESPN reported Griner will be playing her 10th season since her initial draft in 2013 with the Mercury. In 2021, she played her best season, averaging 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists and 9.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 offensive rebounds and a .846 free throw percentage.