Brittney Griner's Wife on Her 'Complete Vulnerability' as She Pleads for Help for Detained WNBA Player

WNBA player Brittney Griner was arrested and detained in Russia in February after authorities allegedly found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage

Brittney Griner's Wife Cherelle Says President Biden Is the 'One Person That Can Go Get Her'
Brittney and Cherelle Griner. Photo: Brittney Griner/Instagram

WNBA star Brittney Griner's wife Cherelle Griner is pleading for President Joe Biden's help as the Phoenix Mercury star, 31, remains in Russia, where she has been detained since February 17.

In a recent interview, Cherelle, 28, opened up about the helplessness she feels as she hopes for government officials to secure Brittney's safe release.

"There is one person that can go get her, and that's our president," she told ESPN's Angela Rye. "He has that power. You know, I'm just like, 'Why are we not using it? Like, urgently, use it.' We're expecting him to use his power to get it done."

Since Brittney's detainment, Cherelle said she's received support from the Phoenix Mercury. Though she's spoken to Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state; Adam Silver, NBA commissioner; and Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner, Cherelle's concern for Brittney's well-being remains.

"I'm in a position of complete vulnerability right now. I have to trust people that I didn't even know until Feb. 17," Cherelle told the outlet. "So I'm trusting her lawyers. ... 'How does she look? How is her spirit? How is her energy?' I'm just asking all those questions, trying to just get some type of indication or vibe."

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.
Brittney Griner and wife Cherelle Griner. Ethan Miller/Getty

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

She added, "Some days they say, 'She's really strong. ... She seemed in good spirits when we talked.' And sometimes they'll say, 'Her energy was really low.' "

Cherelle — who recently graduated with her Juris Doctor degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law — said she never expected her wife's detention to last this long, adding that she feels that if it were an NBA player in Brittney's position, there would be more urgency from the U.S. government.

"We do live in a world that, the bigger the platform, the bigger the urgency," she said. "I'm just so sorry she's going through this. Like, it kills me."

She also spoke with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts this week, saying that she and Brittney have communicated sporadically through letters amid the latter's detainment. "[Brittney] wrote me one letter and was like, 'Babe, I know you wanna go down right now but like, don't just yet,'" said Cherelle. "I won't go down until she's back ... Every single day matters for me to be sound, for me to be alert, for me to be attentive, to make sure that she comes back."

Cherelle's conversation comes shortly after Brittney's pre-trial detention in Russia was extended by one month. The WNBA star's lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told The Associated Press earlier this month that he thinks the relatively short extension could indicate that Brittney's case will go to trial soon.

Brittney Griner
Gregory Shamus/Getty

Brittney, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow in February after vape cartridges containing hash oil were allegedly found in her luggage.

At the time, the Russia Federal Customs Service said in a statement that the WNBA star had flown to Moscow from New York when a customs service dog at the airport indicated that drugs were possibly located inside her carry-on bag. Customs officers searched the bag and allegedly found vape cartridges that contained liquid with hash oil.

Brittney was later taken into custody. She has been charged with smuggling "narcotic drugs" into the country, according to the Customs Service statement. The basketball champion faces five to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The U.S. State Department has now classified Brittney's February arrest in Russia as wrongful detainment, which indicates a shift in how government officials will attempt to bring her home.

"The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

"The U.S. Government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family."

Related Articles