Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons skewered the Biden administration for celebrating WNBA player Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison while former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan remains locked up, though he later tempered his comments.
Mr. Parsons originally reacted to the news Thursday morning with a tweet that said “Wait nah!! We left a marine?!! Hell nah.”
He followed that up with a now-deleted retweet of President Biden’s announcement where Mr. Parsons said, “We still not voting for you!”
The NFL’s former Defensive Rookie of the Year began to ratchet back the intensity in subsequent tweets.
He clarified that his response wasn’t a comment about Ms. Griner’s release or how happy he was for her return, but how Mr. Parsons was in disbelief that the president couldn’t find a way to do the same for Mr. Whelan.
Mr. Parsons capped off his comments by apologizing for tweeting “out of emotion.” He added, “if what I’m told about the attempts to bring Ret Marine Paul Whelan home are true, then the best outcome was accomplished.”
Ms. Griner pleaded guilty to smuggling charges over the summer after she was arrested by Russian customs officers in February for having hashish oil cartridges in her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The Biden administration was able to bring her back to U.S. soil in a prisoner swap by releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is referred to as the “Merchant of Death.”
Mr. Whelan was convicted of espionage in June 2020 and given a 16-year prison sentence. He was arrested in December 2018.
The detained veteran told CNN on Thursday that he is “greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release…I was arrested for a crime that never occurred.”
A statement from Mr. Whelan’s twin brother, David, shared in the dejection about the news.
“How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has failed twice to free you from a foreign prison,” David Whelan’s statement read, per CBS. “I can’t imagine he retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point.”
The U.S. government and the Whelan family have said that the Russian charges are manufactured.
— Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.