Brittney Griner’s wife calls Biden on Good Morning America interview


Brittney Griner's wife calls Biden on Good Morning America interview

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Brittney Griner’s wife said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday that she hopes to hear from President Biden while the WNBA star’s detention in Russia on drug charges continues, saying, “If they hold her ‘Cause they want to do something, I want you to do it,” while work continues behind the scenes to free her.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star for the Phoenix Mercury was taken into custody when she arrived at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow on February 17. Griner, who plays for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg team during the WNBA off-season, has been accused of possessing vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Since then, Griner’s family and State Department officials have been working behind the scenes to secure her release, and the Biden administration recently classified her situation as “wrongful detention.” Publicly, the WNBA sent a message by placing stickers with their initials and the #42 on their teams’ bottoms.

“Things like this are important, it gives her hope,” Cherelle Griner told GMA host Robin Roberts. “It lets her know she’s not forgotten. … I know those little moments give her a kind of hope.”

Cherelle Griner said she first learned of the situation when Brittney texted her upon arrival in Russia, saying: “Babe, babe, wake up. You have me in this room. I don’t know what’s going on,’” Cherelle said. “I immediately texted back, ‘Who are ‘they’ and in what room?'”

At that point, Brittney’s phone was taken and the two were able to communicate “sporadically,” Cherelle said, adding, “I’m even grateful for that.”

Cherelle said she is in contact with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “I was grateful for the call,” she said. “You say she’s top priority, but I want to see it. I want to see it’s me who sees BG on US soil.

“At this point, if she comes back, I don’t even know who I’ll get back.”

Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, who worked privately as a hostage negotiator and took on Griner’s case, said in a recent appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that he was “optimistic” about Griner’s return to the United States USA “will be held soon.”

Meanwhile, Cherelle is hoping to speak to President Biden. “I keep hearing that he has the power; she is a political pawn.”

Cherelle, a recent law school grad, pointed out that like many other WNBA players, Griner has to go abroad during the offseason to supplement her salary. Griner earns $227,900 when he plays for Mercury, and Cherelle said he’s had a positive experience playing in Russia.

“You know you’re a GOAT when you can actually play in Russia on the team that BG plays for,” she said. “They treat them like superstars.”

Still, WNBA pay is an issue compared to other sports leagues. “BG would love with all my heart not to go abroad,” Cherelle said. “In the nine years she’s been a pro, she’s only celebrated Thanksgiving once in the States. She misses all of those things just because she can’t make enough money in the WNBA to sustain her life.

Griner last appeared in a Russian court on May 13 at a scheduled hearing that would extend her pre-trial detention by another 30 days. That day, the Russian state news agency reported that US and Russian authorities were discussing a prisoner swap between Griner and convicted arms smuggler Viktor Bout. The development came 10 days after the Biden administration officially reclassified Griner’s arrest, in a sign that US officials would step up efforts to secure her release rather than wait for the Russian legal system to prevail.

Griner, 31, appeared at the hearing in an orange WNBA hoodie that mostly obscured her face. Her lawyer, Alexander Boykov, said in a video published by the Associated Press that he believes the relatively short extension of her incarceration could be a signal that her case will soon come to court.

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In a statement provided to the Washington Post on May 13, a US State Department spokesman said officials from the US Embassy in Moscow were able to attend and speak with Griner’s hearing, echoing a statement made in March, in who said she was “doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

“We believe that having space to have private conversations is the best and most effective way for us to achieve potentially successful outcomes. We are closely involved in this case and are in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team.”

Griner’s case received renewed attention after US Navy veteran Trevor Reed was freed from Russia last month as part of a prisoner swap. Former Marine Paul Whelan has been jailed in Russia since 2018. Cherelle Griner said she has been in contact with both men’s families and has been urged to overcome her reluctance to speak out about the situation, adding that she “obviously [wants Whelan] also back.”

For the first week after Griner’s incarceration, Cherelle said she “lay on that couch and cried my eyeballs out. i was deaf I could not move.”

“Every single day is important for me to be healthy, to be alert, to be alert to make sure she comes back, but it’s hard,” she said. “It is difficult.”

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