Brittney Griner makes first public NYC appearance since Russian prison release

WNBA star Britney Griner made her first public appearance in New York City on Thursday since being released from a Russian prison last year. Griner was the surprise guest at the Women's Empowerment Luncheon held at the Sheraton Times Square as part of the 2023 National Action Network's annual convention.

The 32-year-old Phoenix Mercury star thanked "everyone in this room that came together, sent up every prayer, it reached me while I was there." 

Griner's arrest in Russia in 2022 on drug-related charges resulted in her detention for 10 months, with much of that time spent in prison. She was released in a prisoner swap for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, secured by Biden administration officials.

Rev. Al Sharpton was among the clergy and racial justice activists who pressured the White House to secure Griner's release. During the award ceremony, Sharpton recognized Griner for her courage and dedication to justice.

RELATED: Brittney Griner working on memoir about Russian captivity

Griner took the opportunity to remind the audience of the Americans still being held by Russian officials, including Paul Whalen, who was arrested in 2018, and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested last week on espionage charges that U.S. officials have called bogus.

"I wanna continue to fight to bring home every American detained overseas," Griner said.

Griner recently announced that she's writing a memoir about her ordeal, which is sure to shed more light on the conditions she faced while imprisoned in Russia.