Photos of Brittney Griner and Russian Arms Dealer Viktor Bout, both in custody.

Brittney Griner Detained In Russia / Viktor Bout Swap

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Updated Dec 08, 2022 at 10:43AM EST by Owen.

Added Jul 27, 2022 at 09:35PM EDT by Owen.

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Brittney Griner Detained In Russia and the Viktor Bout Swap refers to WNBA player Brittney Griner being detained in Russia for possession of marijuana (specifically a dab pen device) in a Moscow Airport. She was arrested by Russian authorities in early 2022. Then in mid-2022, U.S. President Joe Biden offered convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and detained former U.S. marine Paul Whelan. President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government were set to accept or decline the offer in the days that followed and eventually accepted the swap in December 2022. Reactions and memes surfaced on Twitter and other social media sites shortly after. In August 2022, former NBA player Dennis Rodman announced he was going to Russia in an attempt to free Griner through diplomacy, however, his plan never came to fruition.


On March 5th, 2022, the New York Times[1] reported that Phoenix Mercury player Britney Griner had been detained at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow under drug charges. Authorities discovered weed vaporizer cartridges in her luggage roughly seven days prior to the New York Times reporting on it. A video was released by the Russian Federal Customs Service on Telegram. [2] News outlets like Houston KHOU 11 reposted the video to YouTube on March 5th, earning roughly 97,000 views in five months (shown below).

In their article, the New York Times[1] also noted that her detainment happened during "the most dangerous moment in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cuban missile crisis," regarding the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine that started in late February 2022. Additionally, Griner is a U.S. Olympic Team player, as well as a seven-time WNBA All-Star center for the Mercury.[1] She was returning from a standard basketball trip in Russia at the time.[3]

Griner Pleads Guilty

On July 7th, 2022, news outlets like AP News[3] reported that Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in the Russian court. If sentenced, Griner could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.[1] Griner told the court she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she had packed for Moscow in a hurry.[3] She went on to say, "that she had committed this act through negligence, unintentionally.” A photo of Griner being walked into the courtroom was taken by AP Photo[3] (shown below).


AP News also wrote in their article that Joe Biden's White House was attempting to make a deal with the Russian authorities for Griner's freedom. Washington had not proposed its official strategy, but insider knowledge alluded to a Russian prisoner swap for Griner along with Paul Whelan who was arrested in 2018.[4]

Swap For Viktor Bout

In the AP News July 7th, 2022, article,[3] it was noted that Russian media had repeatedly speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death.” He has been serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. after being convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.[3]

On July 27th, 2022, news outlets like TIME[5] magazine reported that U.S. President Joe Biden had approved a plan to offer the release of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the Russians’ release of Griner and Paul Whelan. A U.S. senior Administration official told TIME that Moscow "should be interested” in the offer “based on their prior representations.” [5]

A video of the White House relaying the offer was uploaded to Twitter by USA Today, among others, on July 27th. USA Today's Twitter[6] video received roughly 44,400 views in one day (shown below).

As of July 28th, 2022, the Russian government in Moscow has not accepted nor declined the U.S.'s offer.

Online Reactions

Reactions to the proposed swap surfaced throughout the day on July 27th, 2022. For instance, Twitter[7] user RickDHarrington seemed to support the swap but used the event to highlight the U.S. prison system's history of wrongfully convicted marijuana users, earning roughly 1,300 likes in one day (shown below, left). Other Twitter users were outright critical of the Griner/Whelan for Bout swap. For instance, Twitter[8] user DB_USMC2009 stated that he believed "Brittney Griner is not a political prisoner. She’s a person who committed a crime in a country that is not her own," earning over 1,000 likes in a day (shown below, right).

Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. @RickDHarrington If the US Government is advocating for the release/swap of Brittney Griner who is held on cannabis charges... We need to release those here at home held on cannabis charges... but that would require integrity. 3:28 PM Jul 27, 2022 · Twitter Web App It's only TREASON if you lose! Daniel Brewer @DB_USMC2009 Brittney Griner is not a political prisoner. She's a person who committed a crime in a country that is not her own, and is now simply subject to that country's system of justice. She deserves no special treatment. And anything to the contrary is simply ignorant. 5:54 PM. Jul 20, 2022 · Twitter for iPhone

Other internet users had more humorous reactions to the event, which manifested in memes. For instance, on July 27th, 2022, Twitter[9] user XABBITZ captioned the Stressed Homelander video from The Boys with, "Griner after Woj says that the US isn’t willing to part with a 2025 first round pick," in reference to the NBA draft and ESPN correspondent Adrian Wojnarowski. In one day, the tweet received roughly 5,500 views and over 320 likes (shown below).

Dennis Rodman Going To Russia For Brittney Griner

On August 21st, 2022, NBC News[10] published an article, wherein, they'd sat down with former NBA player Dennis Rodman in Washington D.C. while he relayed to them that he, "got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," referring to Brittney Griner in Moscow. He additionally stated that he was "trying to go this week."

A senior Biden official told NBC that he was more likely to hurt than help Griner's detention. The official additionally stated, "anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts." Rodman wouldn't need the government's permission to travel to Moscow, only a visa issued by Russia. Regardless, the U.S. government warned against traveling to the country due to the possibility of wrongful detention. Rodman refuted this belief when telling NBC, "I know Putin too well." His confidence is most likely a direct result of his informal diplomacy trip to North Korea and his now-storied relationship with Kim Jong-un.

On August 21st, 2022, the Twitter[11] account NBC News linked in the article in a tweet that received roughly 1,800 likes in two days. Later on August 21st, the Twitter[12] account boardroom tweeted the information/headline, earning roughly 16,700 likes in two days (shown below, left). The news was also reiterated by the Instagram[15] page theshaderoom, earning over 300,000 likes in two days (shown below, right).

BOARDROOM Boardroom @boardroom. Aug 21 BREAKING: Dennis Rodman will travel to Russia in an attempt to bring Britney Griner home, per @NBCNews. "I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl. I'm trying to go this week. ... I know Putin too well." Dennis Rodman FINA 175 NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman Says He's Going To Russia To Help Seek Release Of Brittney Griner TR THE SHADE ROOM FR ACTION Of

Online Reactions

In the days that followed, reactions and memes surfaced on social media, highlighting the objective absurdity of Rodman's propostition and plan. For instance, on August 21st, 2022, Twitter[13] user and Houston sports anchor Ari Alexander replied to boardroom's tweet,[12] referencing the You Vs. The Guy She Told You Not to Worry About snowclone by captioning photographs of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Rodman with, "You vs. the diplomat she told you not to worry about." The reply received roughly 1,300 likes in two days (shown below, left).

Also on August 21st, Twitter[14] user kyuguro posted a QT that stated, "Niggas sayin 'what is Dennis Rodman gon do' like he ain’t pull this off," and attached an image of Rodman and Kim Jong-un in North Korea. The QT received roughly 4,400 likes in two days (shown below, right).

Ari Alexander @AriAlexander Replying to @boardroom You vs. the diplomat she told you not to worry about 8:09 PM. Aug 21, 2022 Twitter for iPhone NATO T.Roy @kyuguro N----- sayin "what is Dennis Rodman gon do" like he ain't pull this off CING

Russian Court Upholds Brittney Griner's Nine-Year Sentence

On October 25th, 2022, the Russian court upheld Brittney Griner's previously projected nine-year prison sentence, taking Griner one step closer to full incarceration in a Russian penal colony as per the New York Times.[16] The WNBA All-Star was arrested in February for possessing two THC cartridges. The October 2022 upholding is set to pass through two higher courts in Russia. The likeliness of Griner receiving freedom from these higher courts is reportedly unlikely as they tend to rule in the Kremlin's interest,[16] though Biden and his administration continued taking steps towards swapping Griner for Viktor Bout during this timeframe. Biden and Putin were reported to be at the same conference in Indonesia in November 2022, where Biden will reportedly only talk to Putin about Griner's detainment.[16]

As the news of the Russian court's upholding hit Twitter[17][18] on October 25th, 2022, numerous reactions surfaced from Twitter users, many concerned about Griner's freedom. For instance, the Twitter[19] account BallsackSports tweeted, "Dudes will complain about every speeding ticket but then say the law is the law when it comes to Britney griner," gaining roughly 1,900 likes in less than a day (shown below, left). Despite support and sympathy for Griner, there was also disdain present online. For instance, Twitter[20] user gloomybullsfan tweeted a meme showing Homer Simpson sleeping with the caption, "How Brittney Griner would sleep if it was one of us in a Russian prison," gaining over 6,000 likes in less than a day (shown below, right).

BS Est Jul B------- Sports Ⓡ @BallsackSports Dudes will complain about every speeding ticket but then say the law is the law when it comes to Britney griner 9:48 AM Oct 25, 2022 Twitter for iPhone ● 142 Retweets 21 Quote Tweets 1,963 Likes How Brittney Griner would sleep if it was one of us in a Russian prison

Brittney Griner Released / Official Swap For Viktor Bout

On December 8th, 2022, the official Twitter [21] account of U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted, "Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home," and attached two photographs of Vice President Kamala Harris and Griner's wife Cherelle Griner in the oval office embracing each other and celebrating. In two hours, the tweet received roughly 215,900 likes (shown below).

President Biden @POTUS United States government official Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home. ALT 8:14 AM Dec 8, 2022 ALT :

Multiple news outlets like CBS News[22] and Fox News [23] reported on the story soon after, stating that Griner was released via a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.[22] Detained former U.S. marine Paul Whelan was not included in the swap. Biden spoke of Whelan in a speech given on December 8th, stating, "We've not forgotten about Paul Whelan. We will never give up."[22]

Online Reactions

Immediately following Biden's tweet[21] and the coverage from news outlets, multiple reactions to the swap and Griner's release surfaced on social media. Many were pleased with Griner's release and the swap overall, expressing this belief on Twitter. For instance, on December 8th, 2022, Twitter[24] user NickKalmanFN tweeted a quote directly from Paul Whelan's family who said:

"There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed & for them to go home. The Biden Admin made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, & to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to..”

The tweet received roughly 19,000 likes in one hour (shown below, left). Others were not pleased with Griner's release, specifically because of the swap for Viktor Bout who they deemed too dangerous. For instance, on December 8th, 2022, Twitter[25] user MRFeldt replied to Biden's tweet, writing, "You released someone literally called 'The Merchant of Death' for her. This exchange seems uneven," gaining roughly 9,800 likes in two hours (shown below, right).

Nick Kalman @NickKalmanFN NEW from the Whelan family: "There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed & for them to go home. The Biden Admin made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, & to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to.." 8:37 AM Dec 8, 2022 4,864 Retweets 1,444 Quote Tweets 19K Likes Matthew Feldt @MRFeldt Replying to @POTUS You released someone literally called 'The Merchant of Death' for her. This exchange seems uneven. 8:16 AM Dec 8, 2022 361 Retweets 19 Quote Tweets 9,848 Likes

More humorous and light-hearted reactions also surfaced about Griner's release, such as a tweet from Twitter[26] user dirtywhiteups on December 8th who captioned a video of internet comedian Druski walking out of prison with, "Viktor Bout walking out of prison after the Brittney Griner trade," gaining roughly 4,300 likes in one hour (shown below).

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Top Comments


I think I speak for everyone who doesn't view the Geneva Convention as a checklist when I say it'd be in everyone's best interests to stay the fuck away from Russia to keep their madness from spreading and avoid situations like this in the future.

Kidnapping US civilians is North Korea level horror. Normally? I'd be staunchly against saying things like "Oh I wish X would just die already.", but Putin and his fuckin' Vatniks sure as hell aren't making that an easy ideal to stand by.

There isn't really a solution to a nuclear superpower having a tantrum aside from letting them tire themselves out, and hopefully, like children and diapers, a change in politicians will get the government to stop making a mess of things… whenever that might happen.


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