For the first time since Brittney Griner was detained in Russia on Feb. 17, her wife spoke out publicly about the U.S government’s handling of the situation in an appearance on Good Morning America Wednesday.
Cherelle Griner, who graduated from the North Carolina Central University School of Law earlier this month, revealed that she has spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well as NBA commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert about her wife’s detainment. Although the U.S State Department has called getting Griner back on U.S. soil a “top priority,” and subsequently deemed her to be “wrongfully detained,” Cherelle is hoping to see additional action taken to get her wife home.
“I don’t know,” she responded when asked by GMA’s Robin Roberts if she felt that freeing Brittney was a top priority of the U.S. State Department. “I was grateful for the call [from Secretary Blinken]. You say she’s top priority, but I want to see it. I feel like to see it would be to see BG back on U.S. soil.”
Cherelle Griner is also hoping that her speaking out will reach President Biden and put an additional spotlight on her wife’s situation.
“I just keep hearing that, you know, he has the power. She’s a political pawn,” she said. “So if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”
Griner, a seven-time All-Star with the Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA, was arrested in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport, where Russian officials said they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. According to the Customs Service statement, a criminal case involving Griner “has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs,” which can carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years in Russia.
Cherelle Griner said she first heard of her wife’s detainment from Brittney herself, who sent a series of texts after being first stopped by Russian officials at the airport. The couple has been able to communicate through letters, but have not spoken since Brittney was first detained.
“She’s the glue to our family,” Cherelle said in an interview with ESPN’s Angela Rye. “She is literally the kindest, sweetest person you will ever meet, and it’s very genuine.
“When we have been able to communicate, via letters, she’s like, ‘I am so sorry I’m making your life hard right now. Don’t give up on me, though.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not going to give up on you. This isn’t your fault.’”
When asked how Griner is doing, Cherelle said she doesn’t really know because she isn’t able to speak with her wife directly. Anything she hears is secondhand from her lawyers.
“I don’t truly know [how she’s doing],” Cherelle said. “I’m in a position of complete vulnerability right now. I have to trust people that I didn’t even know until February the 17th. So, I’m trusting her lawyers to tell me when they go see her, how is her spirit? How is her energy? But, the truth of the matter is because I haven’t heard her voice myself, I don’t 100% know. But, I am being told that she’s doing O.K.”
Just a week after Griner was detained, Russia invaded Ukraine. This added to Cherelle’s worry for her wife.
“That almost killed me, actually,” Cherelle said. “I was terrified what that meant. I thought that was it. I’m like ‘I’m really never going to see her again.’”
Griner was denied house arrest and her detention was extended for 30 days on May 13. U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said Friday that a U.S. consular officer was able to meet with Griner on Thursday, May 19, for the second time in a week and “found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances.”
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