During an exclusive interview with theGrio, Cherelle Griner shares details about her call with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and her will to fight for Brittney’s return despite her personal heartbreak.
Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, did not tune into the criminal trial on Brittney’s drug charge in Russia. In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Cherelle said emphatically, “I will not be watching.”
Cherelle Griner cited the impact of her wife’s detainment on her mental health as to why she won’t be watching the trial. “Some things are extremely unhealthy for my mental health,” she told theGrio.
Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner (Photo: Getty Images)
“I plan to be standing the entire time through this to ensure that my wife is back home, and so I will not be watching just to preserve my own personal mental health strength.”
On Thursday, Brittney Griner pled guilty to the drug charge. Additional hearings are set to happen to determine the basketball star’s fate.
Cherelle, who lovingly referred to her wife as BG during the interview, spoke to theGrio exclusively just minutes before she attended the latest rally in support of her wife’s release in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday night.
During the past five months, Brittney Griner has been in the custody of Russian authorities for being in possession of cannabis oil at a Moscow airport. Cherelle keeps track of the time without her wife by counting each day she is not free. Cherelle is doubly determined and pained over what is now being considered a hostage situation.
Mrs. Griner said, “Honestly, I’m not well, but this is such a personal matter for me because my wife’s humanity is at stake. Her life is at stake, her safety is at stake.”
In the nearly 15-minute zoom interview with Mrs. Griner, it is evident that she is not giving in to her emotions during this multi-month emotional rollercoaster. “I refuse to, you know, just stay in the bed and do what I feel like doing, which is just crying all day,” she told theGrio. “And so instead, I’m going to do everything in my power, standing right now to make sure that we see the urgency in getting her back home.”
Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, speaks during a rally to support the release of detained American professional athlete Britney Griner at Footprint Center on July 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In her tireless efforts to stand for Brittney and bring her safely back to the United States, Cherelle Griner spoke on the phone with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday over the delicate and highly publicized matter.
Mrs. Griner has committed to coming to Washington, D.C. for a face-to-face meeting with President Biden at the White House. “He did extend the offer. And right now I have not made a date as to when I will come,” said Cherelle, adding, “But I know that I will come.”
Griner said that she has to also coordinate the visit with Brittney Griner’s parents. “I’m not the only Griner out here that is…distraught and that would benefit from a meeting with the person who has the power to get B.G. back home,” said Cherelle. “We have to coordinate that with the family and with the President’s schedule, but we will take him up on that offer.”
Cherelle Griner described her call with the president and vice president as “in-depth.” She said the conversation focused on the administration’s efforts to return Brittney Griner and reassuring Cherelle that “they haven’t forgotten [her].”
On the Fourth of July, Brittney Griner sent a personalized letter to President Biden, urging him not to forget her and expressing her concern that she may never return home to her wife and family.
Griner divulged that while she and President Biden did most of the speaking during Wednesday’s call, Vice President Harris’ remarks were brief but encouraging. “She knew I was studying for the bar as well right now during this very unprecedented time and she actually had more faith than I have in myself right now in passing it,” Cherelle told theGrio. “She was very encouraging towards me.”
US President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris (L), speaks about the Child Tax Credit relief payments that are part of the American Rescue Plan during an event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, July 15, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
In some of the letters that Brittney sent Cherelle, the Olympic athlete has also pushed her wife to focus on her attempts to pass the bar. Mrs. Griner recalled one of those letters to theGrio, saying, “I know you like to go off-grid and I know you care about me. But honestly…if you need to turn your phone off and don’t talk to anybody and don’t do any interviews, like, that’s fine.”
Cherelle continued sharing her wife’s comments: “I really don’t want to be the reason why…you’re held back in, you know, your career because people need you to represent them.”
Mrs. Griner praised her wife Brittney as “selfless in nature,” adding “that is who she is.”
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement, “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home.”
HARRISON, NJ – JUNE 19: Fans display a banner supporting WNBA player Brittney Griner, who is being detained in Moscow, before the NWSL match between San Diego Wave FC and NJ/NY Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena on June 19, 2022 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)
Early on as the ordeal was heightening, national security officials were quietly telling reporters not to raise questions about Griner to prevent President Vladimir Putin – who is currently at odds with the United States as it wages war in Ukraine – from believing Britney Griner was a big enough star to hold her hostage and use her as a political pawn. Biden officials are now saying all bets are off.
Biden officials are in regular contact with the Griner family. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also been in contact with Cherelle Griner and the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates and her support network.
The Biden administration told Cherelle Griner that it is working all channels to bring Brittney home. “They’ve made it very clear that they are doing everything that is in their power to try and negotiate for BG to be back in the U.S,” she said.
During her interview with theGrio, Cherelle Griner was visibly heartbroken as she talked about the difficulty of staying in contact via letters with her partner of 12 years that she described as “sporadic and short in nature.”
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury walks hand and hand with wife Cherelle Watson after defeating the Dallas Wings at Feld Entertainment Center on August 10, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Mrs. Griner lamented, “At this moment, we’re really relying on the foundation that we have in each other prior to this situation because there’s not much you can do when you can’t hear, you know, the voice of the person you care about.” Therefore they’ve had to rely on their faith and trust.
In the midst of Cherelle Griner’s public pain, she also sent a message to the public.
“I had a call with the president and the Vice President, but that does not mean the work here is done for us as people,” she told theGrio. “We have to make sure that we are holding everybody accountable to do this urgently. And so the people that can get this done, we need to make sure that they do…we cannot be quiet until the day that BG is back home.”
The Griner family is requesting people to raise their voices for Brittney. ”We truly just want everybody to know that BG is the type of person that if the roles were reversed, she would use her platform to make a difference,” Cherelle Griner shared.
“She cares about everybody, and this is the time to now care about her. So continue to lift her up. Continue to make noise about her until the day that we see her back.”
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