Brittney Griner thanked her family and friends and acknowledged her faith in surviving her sentence on Friday in her first comments since being released from a Russian prison earlier this month.
“It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a struggle at every turn,” Griner wrote on Instagram. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love of so many of you that helped me move on. From the bottom of my heart I thank everyone for their help.”
The US traded the WNBA star for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on Dec. 8.
Griner’s post on Instagram included a photo of her getting off a plane in Texas after returning to the United States and a photo of her hugging her wife, Cherelle. Griner’s agent confirmed that she left a military base in San Antonio, where she was recovering, and is on her way home.
Griner was arrested in February at an airport near Moscow in possession of e-cartridges containing hash oil, a substance illegal in Russia. She pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison on August 7. She appealed the verdict but was quickly dismissed in October.
The United States had been negotiating a prisoner exchange for months. President Joe Biden finally announced on December 8 that he had spoken to Griner from a plane as she was flying back to the United States and shared photos of himself with Cherelle Griner and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office.
Griner also specifically thanked Biden and urged the US to keep fighting to bring jailed ex-Marine Paul Whelan home from Russia.
“President Biden, you brought me home, and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home, too,” she wrote. “I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone who helped bring me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”
Basketball player Brittney Griner stands with US Presidential Special Representative for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and her wife Cherelle after arriving in the United States after being released by Russia.
US Department of State
Griner also said she plans to play for the Phoenix Mercury when the WNBA season begins next spring.
“I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and I look forward to saying ‘thank you’ to those of you who have stood up, written, and soon in person posted for me,” she wrote.
The 32-year-old has played nine seasons in the WNBA, all with Phoenix, and made the All-Star team eight times. She was returning to play for her Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg when she was stopped by Russian authorities.
ABC News’ Deena Zaru and Henderson Hewes contributed to this report.