Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, said the last time she heard her wife’s voice was on February 17, the day the WNBA star was detained in Russia.
Now, Cherelle Griner said she hopes her voice reaches United States President Joe Biden.
“There’s one person who can go get her, and that’s our president,” Griner told ESPN’s Angela Rye in an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “He has that power. You know, I’m like, ‘Why aren’t we using it? Like, urgently, use it’. We hope that he will use the power of him to do so.”
Brittney Griner, who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at a Moscow airport after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is derived from cannabis. The offense carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The Biden administration has said Griner, a 31-year-old two-time US Olympian, is being wrongfully detained.
Cherelle Griner, who earlier this month graduated from North Carolina Central School of Law, said she spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. She also credited Mercury for her support. But she is very concerned about Brittney’s well-being.
“I am in a position of total vulnerability right now. I have to trust people I didn’t even know until February 17,” Cherelle Griner said. “So I trust his lawyers… ‘How does he look? How’s his spirit? How’s his energy?’ I’m just asking all those questions, trying to get some kind of indication or vibe.
“Some days they say, ‘She’s very strong… She seemed in a good mood when we talked.’ And sometimes they’ll say, ‘Her energy from her was really low.'”
Brittney Griner was returning to Russia to complete her season at UMMC Ekaterinburg when she was arrested. Cherelle Griner said that she was initially hopeful that Brittney’s detention would be brief. She also said that she feels that if an NBA player were to be detained in Russia, there would be more urgency on the part of the US government.
“We live in a world where the bigger the platform, the greater the urgency,” said Cherelle Griner.
Cherelle said that Brittney was determined to finish her stint in Russia, but was also anxious to stop going abroad. Many WNBA players compete overseas during the winter months to supplement their income, with high-profile stars like Griner earning more than $1 million per season.
“She just said she was so tired of always having to go overseas,” Cherelle said of Brittney, who was the WNBA’s No. 1 pick out of Baylor in 2013. “So we talked about it and it was like, ‘Just do let this be your last year abroad then.’
“I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It kills me.”
US Representatives Greg Stanton (Arizona), Colin Allred (Texas), and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) introduced a resolution last week calling for Griner’s immediate release. Griner is originally from Houston, and she knew Stanton, the former mayor of Phoenix, well since she came to play for the Mercury.
Former United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson, who served as governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011 and helped broker the release of former US Marine Trevor Reed from Russia last month, is also working to secure Griner’s release.
“I think the Russians used them as bargaining chips,” Richardson told Bryant Gumbel in an interview on HBO’s “Real Sports” that aired Tuesday night. “They want something in return. Usually another prisoner, a Russian, in the United States. I’m sure the Russians are going to ask for something in return, because Brittney Griner has such a high profile.”
“What makes it feasible is that the President of the United States is ready to consider prisoner exchanges, something we haven’t [hecho] too much in the past.”
Cherelle Griner said she just hopes to see Brittney again soon.
“She is the glue for our family,” Cherelle said. “She’s literally the kindest, sweetest person you’ll ever meet, and she’s so genuine.
“When we’ve been able to communicate, through letters, she says, ‘I’m so sorry I’m making your life difficult right now. Don’t give up on me though.'” And I’m like, ‘I’m not giving up on you. This is not your fault.'”
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Joe Biden, the only one who can free Brittney Grinner, assures the basketball player’s wife