ARIZONA NEWS

Charles Barkley happy for Brittney Griner’s Russia release, feels for still-imprisoned Paul Whelan

Dec 8, 2022, 8:00 PM
(Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images...
(Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns legend and NBA analyst Charles Barkley is happy fellow Valley basketball icon Brittney Griner was released from Russia in a prisoner swap, but feels for the American who was also rumored to be a part of the exchange.

Barkley told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Thursday he has sympathy for Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive and ex-Marine jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government has said are baseless.

Whelan wasn’t part of the exchange that let notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout go free.

“Obviously really good news on Brittney, the NBA family and the WNBA family, but obviously I think we were all kind of surprised and shocked that Mr. Whelan wasn’t part of the deal,” Barkley said.

“I think that caught everybody off guard to be honest with you.”

Barkley, who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Griner, said the Mercury star shouldn’t have received a nine-year sentence for drug charges.

Whelan has been jailed for nearly four years in Russia. He told CNN on Wednesday, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release.”

“For me, to get nine years over some stuff that isn’t even a big deal — and I don’t know all the facts of Mr. Whelan’s case — I think that people need to realize even though we got some issues and problems here, there’s nothing like the United States of America,” Barkley said.

Barkley expects Griner to face criticism nationally, especially since Whelan remains in Russa and Bout is free.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury pro basketball star, whose nine-month arrest made her the most high-profile American jailed abroad.

Her status as an openly gay Black woman, locked up in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ community, injected racial, gender and social dynamics into her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.

“It’s just an awful situation there,” Barkley said. “We’re happy as an NBA and WNBA family, but we know we put a really bad dude back on the street and then there’s a guy who was a former Marine.

“So I don’t think there’s anything other than being happy for Brittney. It was a tough situation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(L-R) Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Sen. Todd Youg (R-IN) sit together du...
KTAR.com

Arizona politicians react to Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech

Joe Biden wrapped up his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and politicians from Arizona responded predominantly along party lines.
1 day ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as ...
KTAR.com

Joe Biden urges Congress to pass comprehensive border reform during State of the Union

President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on border legislature. 
1 day ago
Francisco Gurrola (Department of Public Safety Photo)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert issued for 41-year-old man last seen in Phoenix

A silver alert was issued on Tuesday evening for a 41-year-old man last seen in the area of Campbell and 63rd avenues in Phoenix.
1 day ago
President Biden gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress at the U.S....
KTAR.com

Watch: President Joe Biden gives 2nd State of Union address

President Joe Biden gave his second State of the Union address in office to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on Tuesday night.
1 day ago
From left, Kendall Schmidt, Carlos Pena Jr., Logan Henderson and James Maslow, members of Big Time ...
Wills Rice

Big Time Rush’s ‘Can’t Get Enough Tour’ comes to Phoenix in August

For those that grew up with the Nickelodeon television show Big Time Rush, you are in for a big treat when their tour comes to town.
1 day ago
U.S. Department of 
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas addresses the media during a ...
KTAR.com

Homeland Sec. Mayorkas says there is no credible threat against Super Bowl in Arizona

An increased security presence will be deployed at the Super Bowl, with every person, piece of merchandise and equipment screened.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Charles Barkley happy for Brittney Griner’s Russia release, feels for still-imprisoned Paul Whelan