WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner went home Thursday night, freed from a Russian prison in exchange for the U.S. release of notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the culmination of an eight-month saga of high diplomacy and dashed hopes.
But the US failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who was imprisoned in Russia for almost four years.
The deal, the second in eight months amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, secured the release of the most prominent Americans detained abroad and achieved a top goal of President Joe Biden. Still, it carried a high price that US officials acknowledged.
“She’s safe, she’s on the plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said from the White House, where he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle.
Biden’s approval to release Bout, a Russian criminal once dubbed the “Death Dealer,” underscored the increased urgency his administration faced to bring Griner home, especially after the recent resolution of her drug case and her subsequent transfer to a state prison. colony. Griner, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there after Russian authorities said she was carrying canisters of cannabis oil.
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury professional basketball star, whose arrest made her the most prominent American incarcerated abroad. Her status as an openly gay black woman, imprisoned in a country where authorities were hostile to the LBGTQ community, brought racial, gender and social dynamics to her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the wrongfully imprisoned population.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the exchange, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout had been flown home.
ATLANTA (AP) – Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray is expected to miss about two weeks with a sprained left ankle.
Murray was injured in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s loss to the New York Knicks.
NEW YORK (AP) – New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin will miss at least two weeks with a fractured right leg.
Toppin was injured in the second quarter of the Knicks’ win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. He has a non-displaced fracture of the head of the right fibula.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Southern California running back Caleb Williams is the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year, becoming the first recipient of the award since 2005 with his stellar debut season for the Trojans.
Williams received 32 of 46 first-place votes and 117 total points from the AP poll’s top 25 voters to win the award presented by Regions Bank. The Heisman Trophy favorite finished well ahead of TCU quarterback Max Duggan, who was second with six first-place votes and 64 points.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was third, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker fourth and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett fifth. Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the first repeat SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was the only non-quarterback in the top eight, finishing sixth.
Williams, Stroud, Duggan and Bennett are the finalists for the Heisman, which will be presented in New York on Saturday. The AP Award winner has distinguished himself from the Heisman winner only twice in the past two decades.
Later Thursday, during ESPN’s College Football Awards, Williams won the Maxwell Award as college football’s most outstanding player, but Duggan beat out Williams for the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback.
Other honorees included Anderson, who won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player; Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi, who won the Outland Trophy as best interior; and Texas’ Bijan Robinson, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has hired Jeff Brohm as football coach, capping a whirlwind process that ended with the school welcoming a native son who had a hand in the Cardinals’ success as a player and assistant coach.
The University of Louisville Athletic Association’s executive committee has approved a six-year contract that will pay the former Purdue coach a $5 million base salary next season with an annual raise of $100,000, plus incentives.
Brohm, who was a Louisville shortstop and minor league baseball player, succeeds Scott Satterfield, who left Monday to become Cincinnati’s coach.
Shortly after Louisville announced it had hired Brohm, Boilermakers athletic director Mike Bobinski named Brohm’s younger brother, offensive coordinator Brian, as the interim coach for the Citrus Bowl game against No. 17 LSU on January 2nd.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — Western Michigan has hired Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor to lead its football program.
Taylor, 41, coached running backs for three seasons each at Notre Dame and Stanford. He was also an assistant at Appalachian State and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Washington commanders had a “toxic work culture” for more than two decades, “ignoring and downplaying sexual misconduct” and what former employees described as hundreds of cases of sexual harassment by men at the highest levels of the organization, according to to the report published by the Committee for Supervision and Reform of the House of Representatives.
The misconduct included Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who was accused of inappropriately touching a former employee at a dinner party, forcing staff to produce a video “featuring sexually suggestive footage of cheerleaders” and ordering women auditioning for cheerleading to walk the field “while he and his friends were peering from his apartment through binoculars,” the report said.
A House committee launched an investigation in October 2021 after the NFL failed to release a written report on its review of the team’s workplace culture. An independent league review by attorney Beth Wilkinson was completed in the summer of 2021 and resulted in a $10 million fine against the team.
NEW YORK (AP) – Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the New York Mets, agreeing to an eight-year, $162 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is subject to a successful physical and no announcement has been made.
A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a career .385 on-base percentage, Nimmo became a free agent for the first time last month. He was a key player when the Mets returned to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2016.
The left-handed hitter batted .274 with 16 homers and a team-high 102 runs scored. He also set career bests with 64 RBIs and 151 games played. His seven triples tied for most in the National League.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Trea Turner’s $300 million, 11-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies has been finalized after the All-Star player passed a physical.
Turner will receive salaries of $27,272,727 in each of the next 10 seasons and $27,272,730 in 2033. Turner will make an annual contribution of $100,000 to Phillies charities.
Turner hit .298 with 21 homers and a career-high 100 RBIs this year in his first full season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joins a Philadelphia team that reached the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.
BOSTON (AP) – Right-hander Chris Martin and the Boston Red Sox have finalized a two-year, $17.5 million contract.
Martin gets a $4 million signing bonus, with $1 million paid out this month, $1.5 million next June and $1.5 million in June 2024. He’s due $6 million next season and $7.5 million in 2024 .The 36-year-old went 4.-1 with two saves and a 3.05 ERA for the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has returned to practice, just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.
Letang, 35, remains out indefinitely and is described by the club as “day-to-day.” Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after suffering his first stroke.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Longtime sports executive Tracy Marek will take over as head of USA Figure Skating in January, becoming the first female executive in the national governing body’s 101-year history.
Marek takes over from Ramsey Baker, who announced in June that he would retire at the end of the year. Marek spent 25 years in sports marketing, the last 19 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
MALELANE, South Africa (AP) — Dean Burmester shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-shot lead in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The 33-year-old South African, who is seeking his third European Tour title, had six birdies on the back nine at Leopard Creek. The second was the Austrian Lukas Nemecz.’
VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota men’s basketball coach Eric Peterson has been hospitalized after suffering multiple injuries in a fall at his home and will not be with the Coyotes when they play UC Irvine on Saturday.
Peterson was outside his home decorating for the holidays Wednesday when he fell, a school spokesman said. His injuries are not life-threatening.
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