The double Olympic gold medalist was released late last year after being arrested in February 2022 from one of Russia’s most notorious prison colonies as part of a high-profile prisoner swap with the United States.
“I’m no stranger to hard times,” Griner said during an emotional press conference.
“Just digging deep, honestly, you’re going to face adversity throughout your life. This was a pretty big one.”
Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and later convicted of drug possession and trafficking after she was found to be carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
She stated that she was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States for a chronic injury and that she never intended to break the law. US officials said she was wrongfully detained and used as a political pawn amid increasingly strained relations with Russia.
She thanked US President Joe Biden on Thursday for helping to negotiate her release and said the photos of her family helped her endure while in custody.
“I was aware of the efforts and everything that was going on,” Griner said. “That gave me hope.”
Griner vowed to dedicate herself to bringing home more Americans detained abroad and announced that she and the Phoenix Mercury will partner with Bring Our Families Home to support the cause.
Asked if she felt guilty about coming home, Griner said it pained her to know other compatriots were living in the conditions she did and that she has a “no one is left behind” mentality that she attributes to her father. he, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“If I could have gone in and gotten them out of there or whatever, I mean, of course I would have,” Griner said. “I hope that we – everyone – will continue to raise awareness and fight to bring them all home.”
The 32-year-old will begin her 10th season with the Mercury on May 19 and said she will never play overseas again – as many in the WNBA do to earn extra income – unless she is it’s about representing his country at the Olympic Games.
WNBA salaries are lower than their male NBA counterparts.
“The whole reason a lot of us go overseas, you know, is the pay difference,” said Griner, who signed a one-year deal to stay with Mercury in February.
“I don’t criticize any player who wants to go abroad and make some extra money. I hope our league continues to grow.”
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