WASHINGTON — American basketball star Brittney Griner went home Thursday night, freed from a Russian prison in exchange for the United States freeing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout at the height of a saga of ‘ eight months of high diplomacy and hasty hopes.
But the United States failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, 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 American detained abroad and hit a key target for President Joe Biden. Yet it carried what US officials admitted was a high price.
“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said from the White House, where he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle.
Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian criminal once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency his administration faced to bring Griner home, particularly after r -recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and her subsequent transfer to penal. a colony Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil.
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury pro basketball star, whose arrest made her the most high-profile American imprisoned abroad. Her status as an openly gay Black woman, locked up in a country where authorities were hostile to the LBGTQ community, injected racial, gender and social dynamics into her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the inmate population unjust.
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 — Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray is expected to miss about two weeks with a sprained left ankle.
Murray was injured Wednesday night early in the first quarter of a loss against the New York Knicks.
NEW YORK — New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin will miss at least two weeks due to a fracture in his 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 his right fibula.
LOS ANGELES – Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is The Associated Press college football player of the year, becoming the school’s first award winner since 2005 with the season of his stellar debut for the Trojans.
Williams received 32 of the 46 first-place votes and 117 total points from the AP Top 25 poll voters to win the award presented by Regions Bank. The Heisman Trophy favorite finished well ahead of TCU quarterback Max Duggan, who came in second with six first-place votes and 64 points.
Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was third, with 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 differed from the Heisman winner only twice in the past two decades.
Later Thursday, during the ESPN College Football Awards show, Williams won the Maxwell Award as the most outstanding player in college football, but Duggan beat out Williams for the Davey O’Brien Award as the best the nation’s quarterback.
Other winners included Anderson, who claimed the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player; Olusegun Oluwatimi of Michigan, who won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman; and Bijan Robinson of Texas, who claimed the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville hired Jeff Brohm as football coach, concluding a whirlwind process that ended with the school welcoming home a native son who had a hand in the success of the Cardinals as a player and assistant coach.
The University of Louisville Athletic Association’s executive board approved a six-year contract that will pay the former Purdue coach a base salary of $5 million next season with annual raises of $100,000, plus incentives.
Brohm, a former Louisville quarterback and minor league baseball player, replaces 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, interim coach for the Citrus Bowl game against No. 17 LSU on Feb. January.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan 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 with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.
WASHINGTON – Washington Commanders had a “toxic work culture” for more than two decades, “ignoring and downplaying sexual misconduct” and what former female employees described as hundreds of cases of sexual harassment by men at the highest levels of the organization, according to a report published by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The misconduct included Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who is accused of inappropriately touching a former employee at a meal, having employees produce a video of “sexually suggestive footage of cheerleaders” and ordering that the women auditioning to be cheerleaders walk onto the field “as he and his friends exited his suite through binoculars,” according to the report.
The House committee opened its investigation in October 2021 after the NFL did not release a written report of its review of the team’s workplace culture. The league’s independent review by attorney Beth Wilkinson was completed in the summer of 2021 and resulted in a $10 million fine to the team.
NEW YORK — Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the New York Mets in free agency, agreeing to a $162 million, eight-year 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 physical success and no announcement had been made.
A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a career on-base percentage of .385, Nimmo became a free agent last month for the first time. He was a key player as 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 a career high with 64 RBI and 151 games played. His seven triples were tied for most in the National Championship.
PHILADELPHIA – Trea Turner’s $300 million, 11-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies has been finalized after the All-Star shortstop passed his physical.
Turner earns $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 100 RBIs in his first full season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joins a Philadelphia team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.
BOSTON — Right-hander Chris Martin and the Boston Red Sox have finalized a two-year, $17.5 million contract.
Martin receives a signing bonus of $4 million, of which $1 million is paid this month, $1.5 million next June and $1.5 million in June 2024. He has salaries of $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 — 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, with the club describing him as “day to day”. Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Longtime sports executive Tracy Marek will take over as head of USA Figure Skating in January, becoming the first female chief executive in its 101-year history of the national governing body.
Marek takes over from Ramsey Baker, who announced in June that he will step down at the end of the year. Marek has spent 25 years in sports marketing, the last 19 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
MALELANE, South Africa — Dean Burmester shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-shot lead at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The 33-year-old South African, who is seeking his third European tour title, had six back-to-back birdies at Leopard Creek. Austrian Lukas Nemecz was second.’
VERMILLION, S.D. — South Dakota basketball coach Eric Peterson was hospitalized after suffering multiple injuries in a fall at 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 collapsed, a school spokesman said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.