Nets Kyrie Irving on Brittney Griner release: ‘I’m grateful she’s home’

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The release of Brittney Griner was celebrated across basketball circles after superstars from the NBA and WNBA called on US officials to secure her release from Russian prison. That included Nets superstar Kyrie Irving. 

Irving had used his pregame speech ahead of the season opener back in October to put Griner’s blight back in the spotlight and following Monday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Irving said he was “grateful” she was free. 

“I’m grateful she’s home,” Irving said. “I’m grateful she’s with her family. Most importantly, humanity comes first. We all feel for her. We all feel for everyone that is wrongfully in prison or in some type of prison where they haven’t gotten their justice. We feel for her, for sure. I’m just grateful that we can all share in the celebration with her being here and still more work to do in our world.” 

The US secured Griner’s release last week and the WNBA star has returned to the United States. She had been arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. 

The State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” and had been working to secure her release. It only came after the US agreed to a prisoner swap that freed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

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“There has not been a day over the past ten months where we all haven’t had Brittney Griner on our minds and in our hearts,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said after Griner’s release.  “And that has now turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, the WNBA player community, and her friends. BG has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity.

“The WNBA is grateful beyond measure to the Biden Administration, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and all those who played a role in bringing BG home today. Our hope is that Paul Whelan and every wrongfully detained American will be returned home safely and as soon as possible.”