Brittney Griner has finally returned home to the United States but the WNBA start looks completely different as she had to do away with her trademark dreads. Griner, whose 10-month-long detention ended on Friday after she was released from a Russian prison in a prisoner swap, reportedly was forced to shave her head.
Maria Blagovolina, Griner's attorney who represented the WNBA star in her trial in Russia, told ESPN on Thursday the 32-year-old got the haircut a couple of weeks ago due to the brutal conditions in the prison. Unable to manage her dreads in the prison, Griner decided to chop them off.
Leaving a Part Behind in Russia
Blagovolina said that life was like hell for Griner in the Russian prison and the brutal climate further made things difficult for Griner. She said that Griner was forced to shave off her locks because they would freeze every time she took a shower.
"It's very cold in there and every time she washed her hair she got cold and would get a chill," Blagovolina said. "She should have waited until New Year's Day."
Griner also contracted the flu while he was detained, but he has since recovered. Blagovolina claimed that Griner decided to cut it all off rather than deal with the situation for the duration of a Russian winter.
For Years, Griner sported long hair, hardly ever cutting the length below the shoulder.
Even so, the basketball player looked elated as she left Russia on Thursday, grinning and announcing to at least one passenger that she was "happy."
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February and given a nine-year prison term for possession of marijuana. The US government received Griner in return for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.
It's unclear if or when Griner will return to the court for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury with the season beginning May 19th against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Back Home Finally
Griner was scheduled to be moved to a nearby military facility for medical examinations after being detained in Russia in February on drug-related accusations. The WNBA star was traded for 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout, 55, who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison.
This put an end to what President Joe Biden called months of "horror" for her and her marriage.
Griner was seen exiting a plane that arrived on Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas after traveling from the UAE, where the prisoner swap took place.
According to U.S. officials on the ground in San Antonio, Texas, where she arrived just before dawn, "was in very, very good spirits when she got off the plane and appeared to be, obviously, in good health," White House spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC in an interview.
The swap deal secured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad and achieved a top goal for President Joe Biden.
However, it comes against the backdrop of soaring tensions over Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine, and has been criticized by Republicans for handing the notorious arms dealer back to Moscow.
The U.S. also failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years - leading to criticism of Biden from his opponents.
Griner is a Baylor University All-American, two-time Olympic gold winner, and standout basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury.
Her status as an openly gay Black woman and imprisoned in a country where the government has been hostile to the LBGTQ community added racial, gender, and social dimensions into her legal story and pushed the issue of wrongful detainees in Russia to a whole new level of prominence.
The athlete, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was detained in February at an airport there amid claims by Russian officials that she was in possession of cannabis oil-filled vape cartridges. Prior to her conviction, the U.S. State Department claimed that Griner had been "wrongfully detained." However, Russia has categorically denied this claim.