Cherelle Griner has not spoken to her wife, WNBA star Brittney Griner, in nearly 100 days. The last time she texted her partner was in the middle of the night on February 17, when the athlete sent roughly 50 text messages begging Cherelle to wake up and informing her that she’d been locked in a room in a Russian airport.
Wednesday’s Good Morning America interview marks the first time Cherelle has spoken publicly about her wife’s “wrongful detainment” in Russia. She said she was personally told by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that securing Griner’s safe return is a “top priority” for the government. When asked by Roberts if she believed that to be true, Cherelle paused and said, “I don’t know. At this point, I don’t even know who I’m getting back when she comes back.”
Cherelle later spoke with ESPN’s Angela Rye, retelling the story of the last time she spoke to Griner: “She was so exhausted from always having to go overseas. We talked about it, and I was like, well, you know what babe? Let’s make this your last season overseas. I was like, you don’t have to go back anymore. We’ll figure something else out when it comes to pay.”
Earlier this month, Griner’s lawyer announced that she would remain in Russia for at least another month, as her pretrial detention period had been extended for another 30 days. But Cherelle says that if the WNBA paid her well or “treated her like she’s treated overseas,” she wouldn’t have been at that airport in the first place. Griner had repeatedly told her wife she didn’t want to go. Now, Cherelle says the couple are limited to writing heart-felt letters back and forth, with no other means of regular or direct communication.
“I’m in a position of complete vulnerability. I have to trust people that I didn’t even know until February 17,” Cherelle told ESPN. “I haven’t heard her voice myself. I am being told that she’s doing OK.” She added that Russia invaded Ukraine a week after Griner was detained: “That almost killed me.”
Despite multiple assurances that the government is working on the situation, Cherelle said she has no insight as to what is currently being done. And while she hasn’t spoken with President Biden, she’s eager to get his attention and said she’d requested a meeting with him. “There is one person that can go get her, and that’s our president,” Cherelle told ESPN. “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.”
In their few communications, Cherelle added that Griner, being the caring partner that she is, was worried about Cherelle’s wellbeing: “She’s like, ‘I am so sorry I’m making your life hard right now. Don’t give up on me, though.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not going to give up on you. This isn’t your fault.”
Cherelle told Roberts that if this was LeBron James or any other well-known NBA player, she doesn’t believe they’d be in this situation. But, in the meantime, she’s grateful to see Brittney’s initials plastered on WNBA courts across the nation: “It comforts BG, it lets her know she’s not forgotten… she doesn’t want to be forgotten.”
We, for one, promise never to forget about Brittney Griner. We’re looking at you, Biden: Bring her home.