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Griner prisoner swap ‘great day’ for US, says LeBron James

The women’s basketball star was freed as part of a Russian-American deal

NBA icon LeBron James has praised US President Joe Biden for the prisoner swap deal which saw women’s basketball star Brittney Griner exchanged for Russian businessman Viktor Bout on Thursday.

“I think it’s a great day,” said James as he reacted on the news that Griner had been released from a Russian penal colony.

“For us Americans, I think having BG back, in the sports world, just having her presence back, I know her wife misses her and her family misses her, her club misses her here in Phoenix.

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“To have her a part of the basketball brother and sisterhood, once again, it’s a big day for us and what we do.

“Kudos to the president, kudos to Kamala Harris and everyone that had something to do with it,” added James, speaking on an edition of ‘The Shop’.

The LA Lakers star said there were still “a lot of people that’s unlawfully detained right now. We hope we can get them all back.”

Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in February after being found with banned cannabis vape oil cartridges in her luggage.

The 32-year-old had been traveling to play in the Russian league during the WNBA offseason in her homeland – something she has done for the past several years.

Griner admitted carrying the substance, but said it had been unintentional after packing in a hurry for her journey.

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The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury in her homeland, was handed a nine-year prison sentence by a Moscow court in August.

After negotiations between Moscow and Washington, Griner was exchanged for Russian businessman Bout in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

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(L) American basketball player Brittney Griner; (R)  Russian entrepreneur Viktor Bout
Russia and US swap prisoners Viktor Bout and Brittney Griner

Bout had spent 11 years in a US prison as part of a 25-year sentence stemming from charges of arms-trafficking – something which he has always denied.

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Following the high-profile prisoner swap, not everyone in America was happy with the deal – not least because former US Marine Paul Whelan remains in a Russian prison.

Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted of espionage in 2020.

NFL star Micah Parsons expressed his concerns by tweeting: “We left a marine?!! Hell nah,” before backtracking and claiming he wasn’t “educated” on the issue.

Former US national security adviser John Bolton condemned the prisoner swap, branding it a “surrender” by the Biden administration.

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Meanwhile, Biden has vowed to continue efforts to bring Whelan, 52, back to the US while claiming his detention is “totally illegitimate.”

“This was not a choice of which American to bring home,” Biden insisted on Thursday.

La Lakers star James had previously been critical of American efforts to secure Griner’s release, causing controversy in July by wondering if she would even want to return to the US.


READ MORE: Don’t read too much into Russia-US prisoner swap – Kremlin

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December 09, 2022 at 05:54PM
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