The biggest trade in WNBA history


Lorie Shaull via flickr (CC BY-SA 4.0)

WNBA Superstar, Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury playing against the Minnesota Lynx

Matthias Jaylen Sandoval, Opinion Editor

Unfortunately, December 8, will go down as a shameful moment in history. The United States of America disgracefully traded a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) athlete for a dangerous Russian arms dealer while a U.S. Marine is being wrongfully detained in a Russian prison. 

On Feb. 17, 2021, WNBA legend Brittney Griner was arrested in a Moscow Airport for the possession of a marijuana vape cartridge. Griner pleaded guilty and was then swiftly tried and convicted for drug smuggling in Russia, where she was sentenced to 9 out of the 10 possible years in Russian prison. On December 8, Griner was released in a prisoner swap deal for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” 

Bout was sentenced to 25 years in a U.S. prison in 2012 on the charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and providing material support to a terrorist organization. He was caught trying to sell weapons to DEA Agents impersonating potential buyers from the armed forces of Colombia (FARC), a former terrorist organization. Viktor Bout’s trial concluded that Bout was aware that his weapons would be used to kill US pilots working with the Colombian Government.

This trade was unacceptable for the United States of America. The U.S. has the strongest commitment to not negotiate with terrorists, yet negotiated with a terrorist Russian Administration to let a terrorist like Viktor Bout walk free. This violated just about every moral and value that the United States stands for. On no level is the release of a guilty American athlete worth the pardon and release of a terrorist man who has committed atrocious crimes against the U.S. and several other countries of the world.

It is also saddening that our government is prioritizing the safety and well-being of celebrities and athletes over our American heroes and veterans. 

Staff Sergeant Paul Whelan served in the Marine Corps from 1994-2008 and did two tours in Iraq. In 2018, he was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, where Whelan claims to be set up by the Russian government and the US State Department claims his arrest to be a wrongful detainment

Our veterans are the people who fight for our country, die for our country, and make sure that we the people of the United States of America are safe and protected. It’s shameful to see that time and time again we mistreat and disregard our American veterans. Whelan deserves better.

Some might argue that Brittney Griner’s crime was a minor offense in some states in the U.S., therefore her getting 9 years was unfair, but she broke Russian Law, not American law. In Russia, that is a major offense. We must face the facts; Brittney Griner was guilty. She broke the law by bringing that cannabis oil. Sadly, I believe that she must have faced the consequences of her actions. Though I understand the desire of the U.S. Government, Griner’s friends and family, and basketball fans all over the world to bring Griner back home, the Biden Administration should have and must have first secured the release of Paul Whelan, an American veteran, and hero, but most importantly, an innocent man.