Conservatives took to social media to blast the Biden administration after it secured the release of basketball player Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange with Russia after she was sentenced to nine years on smuggling charges.
Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), was detained by Russian customs after cartridges containing hashish oil were found in her luggage.
American officials had expressed concern that Russia had been using her as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. News outlets reported over the summer that the American government offered to swap Griner and United States Marine Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker.
Ultimately, Russia agreed to swap Griner for Bout, an entrepreneur and former Soviet military translator who reportedly used his multiple air transport companies to smuggle weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.
These facts have enraged right-wingers who suggested Griner deserved to stay in Russia and that Democratic President Joe Biden should have prioritized securing the release of Whelan and Marc Fogel, a teacher who was arrested and later sentenced for trying to enter Russia with about half an ounce of medical marijuana he had been prescribed in the U.S. for chronic pain.
Critics of the Biden administration have claimed Griner "hates America" because she previously stated she would not be on the court while the national anthem is played during game openers in solidarity with athletes like football player Colin Kaepernick who've refused to stand for the national anthem ahead of games to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
They're out in full force now that Griner has been released—and furious.
But many others have celebrated Griner's release and criticized Republicans for suggesting she should have remained in prison.
The conservative outrage over Griner's release mirrors remarks former Republican President Donald Trump made over the summer that prompted accusations that he was siding with Russia over Griner's arrest because Griner is “a potentially spoiled person” who went to Russia “loaded up with drugs."
Trump's supporters have repeatedly asserted Griner would have been home much earlier if Trump were still in office given his often deferential relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, Republicans have previously delayed the release of Russian prisoners.
Earlier this year, Trevor Reed, the U.S. Marine released after spending two years in Russian detention, called out Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for delaying the vote on his release.
The resolution, House Resolution 186, was introduced in March 2021, mere days before Reed was scheduled to appear in Russian court on charges that he assaulted two police officers in Moscow following a drunken party when he was visiting his girlfriend.
Reed called Greene's delay of the vote last year "embarrassing" and also offered criticisms of the House Republicans who joined her, saying he intends to go to "every single one of their campaigns and thank them personally about that."