Brittney Griner freed in exchange for arms dealer Victor Bout; Paul Whelan still in Russian custody
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The coach and general manager of the Chicago Sky, James Wade, tweeted that he was thankful for the news of Brittney Griner's release.
He tweeted "Welcome Home BG!!!! We've missed you!"
Wade coached the same team in Russia that Griner played for before her arrest.
He has been an outspoken supporter of hers and a fierce advocate for her release.
Back in July, when the WNBA All-Star Game was in Chicago, the league's best players used the national platform to support Griner who was being detained in Russia at the time.
They honored the Phoenix Mercury player as an honorary starter, coming out of the locker room for the second half of the game in jerseys with Griner's name and number 42.
"For the entire LGBTQ community and women's basketball fans, this is a big deal," said Anna DeShawn, radio host.
"There was this heightened level of concern for Brittney's safety, specifically because of her identity as a black and out queer woman," said Latonya Maley, executive director of Affinity Community Services. "It feels like our public officials heard us and responded. And that is exactly the kind of news that I feel like we need right now."
Meanwhile, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin commenting on her release Thursday morning.
"I'm happy that she was released," Durbin said. "It was a political prosecution. The notion that she was going to spend nine years in some Russian prison was a political move, and I'm happy that the Biden administration was successful in negotiating her release."
U.S. officials say Russia rejected an offer for the release of Griner, along with American Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on suspicion of spying.
"Griner hadn't done something wrong. She was not a real criminal, you know, Victor, was a real criminal. And so in this sense, I think Russia probably views this as winning," said Northwestern University political science professor Jordan Gans-Morse.