On Thursday, Brittney Griner participated in a press conference for the first time as a member of Phoenix Mercury since her return to the United States following her detention in Russia.

Shortly after her arrival on American soil, Griner made it clear that she intended to return to the WNBA. She recently signed a one-year contract with the Mercury and will return to the basketball court in May.

Griner hasn’t played in the league since 2021, but he arguably produced the best campaign of his career that season. She averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and helped the Mercury advance to the WNBA Finals.


Phoenix Mercurys Brittney Griner is congratulated on a play against the Seattle Storm in the WNBA playoffs on September 26, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Griner became emotional at the beginning of the press session and began to cry after an initial question from a reporter.

«I’m no stranger to tough times,» Griner said of getting over his stoppage. «Just digging deep honestly.»


But, the 32-year-old made it clear that she has no plans to return to the international basketball circuit, unless she represents Team USA at the Olympics.

Brittney and Cherelle Griner

Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner speak onstage during the 54th NAACP Image Awards on February 25, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

«I can say for myself that I will never play abroad again unless I represent my country at the Olympics… The main reason many of us go abroad is the pay gap, to generate income, to maintain to our families, to support themselves.»

‘It’s a shame we have to leave our families for the holidays, you’re missing out on being away. As much as I’d love to pay my electric bill for the love of the game, I can’t,» Griner said.

Griner is poised to earn $165,100 during the 2023 season, according to Spotrac.

Griner was detained after customs officials at an airport outside Moscow discovered a small amount of marijuana concentrate in vape cartridges in a suitcase in February 2022.

Last May, the US State Department declared that Griner had been wrongfully detained.

During Thursday’s press conference, Griner also requested that the media cover the upcoming WNBA season with the same intensity she received during her incarceration.

«I’d like to encourage everyone to be there for our first game and for the entire season, and also for the entire league, from start to finish. I look forward to seeing this same coverage because we have a great product.»

Brittney Griner during the first half of a game

Brittney Griner of Team USA reacts during the final against Team Japan at the Tokyo Olympic Games on August 8, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Griner also expressed his gratitude for everyone who played a role and his release.

The former Baylor standout also mentioned that «it was good to be back on American soil.» Despite the vocal criticism Griner has faced, he may have found a new level of gratitude for his home country.

Griner has done several; public appearances since releasing him. Earlier this month, she was seen at a women’s empowerment luncheon hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. In February, Griner and his wife Cherelle appeared at Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.


Griner has been named to eight WNBA All-Star teams and is one of 11 players to win an Olympic gold medal, a FIBA ​​World Cup gold medal, a WNBA title, and an NCAA title.