Claytoonz: Griner back in the game
Welcome home, Brittney.
I’m extremely happy that Brittney Griner is coming home after spending the past eight months in a Russian prison for bringing vape cartridges containing less than a gram of cannabis oil into the fascist country. Vladimir Putin made Brittney Griner, who was in the country to play basketball for a Russian team, his political prisoner.
Now, will come the howls of conservatives upset about this because Griner is a black lesbian who’s criticized laws and racism in the United States. These free-speech absolutists believe Griner got what she deserved for speaking her mind and should have rotted away in a Russian prison after an unfair trial in a court run by Russian kangaroos. Talk about cancel culture.
There will also be outrage over the Biden administration being unable to secure the release of Paul Whelan, who’s in a Russian prison on charges of espionage. But as one national security official explained, “This is not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice of bringing home one American, Brittney Griner, or bringing home none.”
Who Russia got for Brittney is Viktor Bout, a Russian arms smuggler nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” who was serving a 25-year sentence in federal prison for conspiring to sell arms to a foreign terrorist group and conspiring to kill U.S. citizens. Bout had served ten years of his sentence.
It is an uneven swap, trading a basketball player for a convicted terrorist, but we needed to secure the release of at least one of these two Americans. Russia’s original demand included a Russian murderer in German custody, which is confusing since Germany is NOT the United States.
Whelan’s release will be trickier because the crime he was convicted of is much more serious than Griner’s. Whelan was found with a USB drive containing the names of employees at a Russian classified security agency. Whelan claims he didn’t know what was on the drive and the CIA says they would never recruit an officer with Whelan’s military record, nor leave an officer exposed without a diplomatic passport. The CIA believes Whelan was arrested as a reaction to the American arrest of Maria Butina, who was arrested for operating as an unregistered foreign agent infiltrating the National Rifle Association and the Trump campaign (which is an ideal place for a Russian spy to hide). Butina was tried, convicted, served her sentence, released, and deported back to Russia.
We should rejoice at the return of Brittney Griner. She is an American and she’s coming home. I can’t wait to see her get back into the game of basketball. Hopefully, Bout never returns to his.
Clay Jones is the 2022 recipient of the RFK Human Rights Journalism Award in Editorial Cartooning, and won a 2021 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was a finalist for the Herblock Prize in 2019 and a finalist for the National Headliner Award in 2020. See more award-winning editorial cartoons from him at Claytoonz.com.