JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Brittney Griner spent nearly 10 months behind bars in a foreign country, but now the basketball star is on her way home. Griner's release from a Russian prison was part of a prisoner exchange involving an accused weapons dealer.
Back in Florida, Donna Orender is relieved to see Griner set free. Orender was the President of the WNBA and helped the league grow during her five years in that role, she is pleased to see a star from her former league go home.
"Finally, I felt a tremendous amount of relief for her family and close friends," said Orender.
Orender also sat down with First Coast News to describe the basketball community's influence on this geopolitical situation.
"Sports speaks loudly and speaks all languages," said Orender. "When you can keep someone's happenstance front and center then people are more apt to work at a good result."
Orender said that the WNBA would share warnings about certain countries, leagues and teams with its players who wanted to play abroad when she was President of the WNBA. However, oftentimes the economic opportunity to play in countries, like Griner did in Russia, are too good for many players to pass up.
"Playing internationally affords, one, a really great experience," said Orender. "It also affords an economic one, there are athletes making money all over the world in many different sports."
Orender stepped down as President of the WNBA in 2010 and launched her non-profit Generation-W in 2011. She said that Thursday's news fits with the theme of 'positive and possible' that her organization hopes to spread.
"If we can focus on what's truly positive and there's so much positive, today the news with Brittney was positive news," she said. "And what's possible, people working together to make good things happen, doesn't that just elevate your spirits? It sets a path for the good lives we want to live."
Orender and Generation-W will host their annual signature event on UNF's campus in March. If you are interested in Generation-W more information can be found here: https://genwnow.com/
Tickets to the March 24 event can be purchased through this link.