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Brittney Griner detention: WNBA star’s wife wants Biden admin to follow through on rhetoric

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Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, said Wednesday she wants the Biden administration to walk the walk if it’s going to talk the talk.

Cherelle Griner appeared on MSNBC and explained her feelings while her wife has been detained. The U.S. State Department reclassified the WNBA player’s status as being “wrongfully detained,” opening the door for negotiations for her release.

“So, what I believe that the Biden administration can do differently is to actually take the words and the rhetoric that they have and match them together,” Cherelle Griner said. 

“For example, an American that’s deemed wrongfully detained, to my understanding, from what the State Department is saying, America will negotiate their release. It’s not a maybe. It’s a will. They will negotiate for their release.”

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Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) drives past Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker (3) during the first half of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix.
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

She added that her push was to get the Biden administration to do “exactly that” – negotiate her wife’s release.

She said he hadn’t spoken with President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris at all during the ordeal despite multiple requests.

“The person that has the power — the Biden administration itself, being President Biden, Vice President Harris — I have not spoken to them. I have asked. I have requested. And, at this point, it almost feels like they’re indirectly telling me no,” she said.

“It almost feels like, indirectly, they have told us as a family they will not be with us, despite the fact that everybody is saying — when I do speak to people — BG is a top priority. We know she’s wrongfully detained. We’re doing everything. But the people that have the highest power, no, they have not spoken to me and my family.”

Cherelle Griner hasn’t spoken to Brittney Griner since Feb. 17. She revealed to the Associated Press Monday she tried to call her wife 11 times for their anniversary, but nobody was at the American embassy in Russia to patch her through.

In this image from video, Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, speaks to The Associated Press Monday, June 20, 2022.

In this image from video, Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, speaks to The Associated Press Monday, June 20, 2022.
(AP Photo)

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She said she was set to speak to her wife from a Russian jail after four months of no communication. Things were set to change Saturday after she received approval from the Russian government to connect with Griner.

But Cherelle Griner learned the truth from her wife’s lawyers on Monday.

The Phoenix Mercury center actually dialed the number she’d been given at the U.S. embassy in Moscow nearly a dozen times. The couple had been told the embassy was going to patch the call through to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. The call went unanswered because the desk at the embassy where the phone rang was unstaffed Saturday.

“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press. “I’m pretty sure I texted BG’s agent and was like, ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s going to take me a minute to get my emotions together, and just tell everybody I’m unavailable right now.’ Because it just knocked me out. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well.”

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The State Department expressed regret over the “logistical error.” Cherelle Griner said a contact within the U.S. government apologized for the error.

Cherelle Griner told the AP she was “very p—ed” about the incident, especially since the call had been on a schedule for two weeks and there was no mention of a potential snafu.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia May 13, 2022.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia May 13, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now,” Cherelle added. “If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home? Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”

Griner has been held in Russia since February. The WNBA star was arrested for allegedly bringing vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis oil through a Moscow airport. Her detention has been extended three times, most recently to July 2.

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Griner could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison if she’s convicted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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