Wife of Brittney Griner calls on U.S. to make WNBA star’s release from Russia top priority

If U.S. President Joe Biden has the ability to bring Brittney Griner home from Russia, her wife, Cherelle Griner, wants to see it, she told “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.

“I just keep hearing that he has the power,” Cherelle Griner told “GMA’s” Robin Roberts. “She’s a political pawn so if they’re holding her because they want you to do something then I want you to do it.”

Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody for nearly 100 days since she was detained at an airport near Moscow on Feb. 17. Authorities said they found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage. Griner, 31, is under criminal investigation for “large-scale transportation of drugs,” which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years.

Cherelle Griner has spoken with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, but would like to see the U.S. government follow through on its statement that Brittney Griner’s release is a priority.

“I was grateful for their call,” she said. “You say she’s top priority but I want to see it. And I feel like to see it would be me seeing BG on U.S. soil. At this point, I don’t even know who I’m getting back when she comes back.”

Cherelle Griner has only communicated with her wife via sporadic letters since her detention began, she told “GMA.” The last text messages they exchanged were while she was being detained, before her phone was taken away.

“She started texting me around 2 a.m. that morning,” Cherelle Griner said. “‘Babe, babe, babe, wake up, they have me in this room. I don’t know what’s going on.’

“And so I instantly text back, ‘Who are they and what room?’ And she’s like, ‘The customs people, they just grabbed me while I was going through and they have me in this room.’ She sent me a message and said, ‘They’re about to take my phone, don’t text anymore.’ So I’m like, ‘Just call me when you can.’ That was it.”

Cherelle Griner said she’s “grateful” for the occasional letters they’ve sent.

“I’m OK because you have to be technically,” she said. “She wrote me one letter and was like, ‘Babe, I know you want to go down right now but don’t just yet.’

“Every day you wake up and the fact that you’re still in that reality, it is a reason for you to lose faith and to not have hope and all of the above. It gives you so much reason to go down. And I won’t go down until she’s back. I just won’t. I can’t.”

Cherelle Griner said Brittney Griner’s experiences in Russia were “great” until this year, but that she would “wholeheartedly love not to go overseas” if it weren’t for the pay.

“She has only had one Thanksgiving in the States in nine years since she’s been pro and she misses all that stuff just because she can’t make enough money in the WNBA to sustain her life,” Cherelle Griner said.

The WNBA’s efforts to keep Griner’s case at the forefront, which include a “BG42” floor decal on all 12 home courts, have been appreciated, Cherelle Griner said.

“It lets her know she’s not forgotten,” she said, “and like obviously you know, when you’re sitting over there and your country, they haven’t come to your rescue yet, I know that it makes her feel good because she doesn’t want to be forgotten.”

(Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images)

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