After footage emerged of LeBron James sitting down for the national anthem while attending his son’s USC debut over the weekend, a number of past controversial statements from the NBA superstar have re-surfaced. This includes comments made following the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from a Russian prison in 2022, when James said he would “understand” if Griner did not want to return to the United States.
Griner, who, like James, has repeatedly trashed the United States and knelt for the anthem, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison camp in 2022 in following a narcotics-related arrest. She was detained at the Sheremetyevo Airport outside of Moscow after customs officials recovered vape cartridges derived from cannabis oil in her luggage.
She was ultimately exchanged for a notorious Russian arms dealer roughly nine months after her arrest in a deal that was highly touted by the Biden Administration.
While Griner was imprisoned, James said he would not want to come back to America if he was in Griner’s position. “Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” James said at the time. “I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?'”
James later walked his comments back in a tweet, saying “My comments on ‘The Shop’ regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country.”
“I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc. inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome.”
My comments on “The Shop” regarding Brittney Griner wasn’t knocking our beautiful country. I was simply saying how she’s probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she’s been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 13, 2022
Griner was ultimately exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is often referred to as the “Merchant of Death.” Bout was imprisoned in the United States for 12 years before he was freed by the Biden Administration in exchange for Griner.
The deal was highly criticized, as Griner was given higher priority than Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018. The administration claimed that it tried to secure Whelan’s release but was unable to do so.