Monday, November 28, 2022

Brittany Griner’s wife says she wants WNBA star home in first public interview

Brittany Griner’s wife, Cherrell, wants President Joe Biden to secure the release of her partner, doing whatever is necessary to bring the WNBA star home from Russia where she has been detained for more than three months has gone.

“I just keep hearing that, you know, he has power. He’s a political pawn,” said Cherrell, who knows everything he knows about Griner’s detention during an interview that aired Wednesday on Good Morning America. Well, he got emotional. “So if they’re holding him because they want you to do something, I want you to do it.”

The Phoenix Mercury Center has been detained since February 17 after vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis oil were found in its luggage at an airport near Moscow.

Griner, 31, – a two-time Olympic gold medalist for America – faces drug trafficking charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Earlier this month, the Biden administration said Griner was being unfairly detained.

Cherrell has spoken to Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Griner’s case, but not to the president.

“I was grateful for the call, you say that is a top priority, but I want to see it. And I think I would love to see BG on US soil,” Cherrell said in her first public interview. “At this point I don’t even know who I’m going to be back when she comes back.”

Russian authorities have declared Griner’s case a criminal offense without any political affiliations. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has brought US-Russia relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.

Despite tensions, Russia and the United States had an unexpected prisoner exchange last month – trading former Marine Trevor Reid for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States. was cutting

Police Officers Walk American Ex-Marine Trevor Reid Into A Courtroom Accused Of Assaulting Police Before A Hearing In Moscow On March 11, 2020.
Police officers walk American ex-Marine Trevor Reid into a courtroom accused of assaulting police before a hearing in Moscow on March 11, 2020.

Alexander Nemenov / AFP via Getty Images

Russians may consider Griner to be someone who can engage in another such exchange.

In addition to Griner, another American improperly detained in Russia is Paul Whelan, a Michigan-based corporate security executive. Whelan was arrested in December 2018 while attending a friend’s wedding and was later sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges related to espionage, which his family had said was bogus.

Cherrell continued, “Even though they’re different people, different roles, nothing to do with what they’re doing in Russia other than, you know, I obviously want her back too.” ” “You don’t want anyone to be there going through what they’re doing.”

Cherrell, who graduated from North Carolina Central University’s law school earlier this month, did not speak with Griner on the phone the day she was first detained.

“I first heard the news through Britney, actually. She started messaging me that morning at around 2:00,” Cherrell said. “‘Babe. Babe. Babe. Wake up. They’ve put me in this room. I don’t know what’s going on.’ And so I immediately text back “Who are they and what room?”

Cherrell said Griner responded, texting: “The Customs guys. They caught me while I was passing by, and they took me into this room. Then Griner sent a message that said, “They’re gonna take my phone.”

Cherrell said she told Griner to call her when she could. Almost 100 days later, she is still waiting for that call.

“The first week I lay on this couch and cried with my eyes closed. I was numb. I couldn’t move,” Cherrell said. “And then I said, ‘You have to get up now.'”

Wnba Star And Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Brittany Griner Leaves The Courtroom After A Hearing In Khimki On May 13, 2022 Outside Moscow, Russia.
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittany Griner leaves the courtroom after a hearing in Khimki on May 13, 2022 outside Moscow, Russia.

Alexander Zemlyanichenko via The Associated Press

Cherrell and Brittany communicate through letters and her lawyers. Lawyers print out articles for Griner to show so he can stay up-to-date with what’s happening.

Cherrell gets emotional while talking about the support and how it helps Griner stay strong during the struggle for her release. The WNBA acknowledged the absence of the 6-foot-9 Mercury Center by placing a decal with its initials and number on the home floor of all 12 teams.

“It gives BG a rest,” Cherrell said. “It lets her know that she hasn’t forgotten and… while you’re sitting there, your country… they haven’t come to your rescue yet. I know it makes her feel good, because she won’t forget Wants to

“Things like that, she’s expected,” Cherrell said. “It lets her know she hasn’t forgotten. I know those little moments give her some kind of hope.”

A Floor Decal On The Sideline Features The Initials Of Phoenix Mercury Player Brittany Griner And Her Jersey Number 42 During Game 5 Of The 2022 Nba Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Before The Game Between The Dallas Mavericks And Phoenix Suns On May 10, 2022 .  Footprint Center In Phoenix, Arizona.
A floor decal on the sideline features the initials of Phoenix Mercury player Brittany Griner and her jersey number 42 during Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns on May 10, 2022 . Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Kate Frise / NBAE via Getty Images

Cherrell said that before his detention, Griner had a great experience playing in Russia over the past nine years. She was detained when she was returning to the country after the Russian league took a break for the FIBA ​​World Cup qualifying tournament.

“You know you’re a goat if you can actually play in Russia … the team BG plays for,” Cherrell said. “They treat him like a superstar.”

Griner, who won the NCAA Championship at Baylor, earned over $1 million for UMMC Ekaterinburg to supplement her WNBA income, where she makes a maximum base salary of $228,000. Elite players like Griner can earn up to $500,000 with their salary, bonuses and WNBA marketing contracts.

“BG wholeheartedly would prefer not to go abroad,” Cherrell said. “He’s only had one Thanksgiving in the (United) States in the nine years since he was a supporter.”

WNBA and US officials are working towards his release without any progress. A US consular officer was able to meet with Griner last week.

“We note that a consular official from our embassy in Moscow was able to accompany Brittany Griner to a court hearing in Moscow that day,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “We have emphasized that in our view a one-time consular visit is not sufficient.

“But it is not only in our view, it is in the requirements put forward by the Vienna Convention and other bilateral agreements that determine that we must have regular, continuous access to Americans who are detained around the world. including those in pre-trial detention.”

Associated Press Diplomat Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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