The entire basketball world was absolutely delighted to learn about Brittney Griner’s release from imprisonment. After nearly 300 days in a Russian prison, the WNBA star has finally come home to the United States after the government was able to successfully negotiate a prisoner swap with the Kremlin.
NBA Hall of Famer turned analyst/broadcaster Charles Barkley himself was pleased with this recent development. Chuck is just happy to finally see Griner back on American soil after her nightmare ordeal in Russia. However, Barkley could not help but lament the fact that while the U.S. government has been successful in facilitating Griner’s release, jailed American citizen Paul Whelan still remains behind bars in Russia:
“It’s just a great day for the NBA, and a great day for the WNBA, and Brittney and obviously her family,” Barkley said. “But it’s also a bittersweet day because Mr. Whelan is still over there. And also, we got a scumbag arms dealer that might go out and kill other people. So on one hand, I’m really, really happy for our NBA and WNBA family. But man, you’ve got to feel for Mr. Whelan. He’s been there four years.”
Charles Barkley calls Brittney Griner being freed a ‘bittersweet moment’ pic.twitter.com/YM8SOf2JLT
— No Jumper (@nojumper) December 9, 2022
Leave it to Charles Barkley to slap us with some sobering reality amid our celebrations for Brittney Griner’s release. In the process, the United States government has allowed convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, aka “The Merchant of Death,” to roam free after he was released as part of the Griner prisoner exchange deal.
Moreover, the release of Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after being convicted of espionage in 2018, was heartbreakingly not included as part of the deal. According to reports, the Russians stood pat on keeping Whelan jailed and were adamant with their “all-or-nothing” offer for Griner and Bout.
It’s great to see Brittney home, but as Barkley implied, the fight is far from over.