Brittney Griner and Wife Cherelle Plan to Help Families of Other Political Prisoners

"Today my family is whole, but as you are all aware, there are so many families who are not whole," Cherelle said after Brittney returned home

Paul Whelan, Brittney Griner

Now that Brittney Griner is free from Russian custody, the WNBA star and her wife intend to help other families of political prisoners.

Griner, 32, returned to the United States on Friday morning, where she reunited with her wife, Cherelle Griner.

According to an ESPN interview with her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Brittney and Cherelle plan to "raise attention" for other families with loved ones detained abroad.

In particular, the couple hopes to help American Paul Whelan, the former U.S. marine who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years on espionage charges, and was initially said to be part of the deal to bring Brittney home.

When Cherelle spoke from the White House Thursday following the announcement of Brittney's return, she said, "Today my family is whole, but as you are all aware, there are so many families who are not whole."

She added that she will continue advocating for "getting every American home, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today."

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 08: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury kisses her wife Cherelle Griner in the stands after the Mercury defeated the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game Five of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs semifinals to win the series at Michelob ULTRA Arena on October 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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"Let's continue to use our hands, voices, platforms, and resources to bring Paul and all Americans home," Cherelle also said in her first Instagram post since Brittney's return. "All families deserve to be whole!"

In a statement on Griner's release, Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched on the challenges facing the U.S. in its ongoing negotiations concerning Whelan.

"While we celebrate Brittney's release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly," Blinken said in the statement. "Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention."

Blinken continued: "I wholeheartedly wish we could have brought Paul home today on the same plane with Brittney. Nevertheless, we will not relent in our efforts to bring Paul and all other U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad home to their loved ones where they belong."

News of Whelan's arrest broke on New Year's Eve 2018 when Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that it had detained the Michigan resident during a "spy mission." However, a U.S. government security source told PEOPLE at the time that Paul is not a secret agent for the United States.

david whelan, paul whelan
From left: David Whelan and Paul Whelan. GMA/Twitter; KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty

In a statement given to media, per CNN, Paul's brother, David Whelan, said, "I am so glad that Brittney Griner is on her way home. As the family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays."

He added, "The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen."

Still, David expressed in his message that he and his family are upset the same couldn't happen for Paul, especially after the Biden administration brought up the possibility that he would come home back in July.

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"Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice," David said. "His hopes had soared with the knowledge that the U.S. government was taking concrete steps for once towards his release. He'd been worrying about where he'd live when he got back to the U.S."

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