Sports

Griner’s wife tells rally: I can’t rest ’til she’s home

PHOENIX — As her voice cracked, Cherelle Griner, the wife of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, told the crowd assembled inside the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon for the “Bring BG Home Rally” that she is beyond feeling hurt by the WNBA star’s detainment.

“I assure you that what and how I feel is no longer hurt by the impact of this tragedy,” Cherelle said hours after speaking with President Joe Biden about her wife’s detainment, which has lasted 139 days. “What and how I feel today is a deeper emotion than hurt. I’m frustrated.

“I’m frustrated that 140 days have passed since my wife has been able to speak to our family and friends. I’m frustrated that my wife is not going to get justice.”

Cherelle closed out the 46-minute rally and received standing ovations from the crowd of more than 300 (2,000 tickets were requested online), both when she was introduced and after she concluded.

She explained that she wrote out her comments for Wednesday’s event because talking about Brittney in the context of her detainment is difficult.

“Talking about my wife is easy and natural for me because that’s my person,” Cherelle said. “However, talking about my wife in the light of her absence from her country, her safety and her humanity as a person is gut wrenching.”

Cherelle said she has adopted Brittney’s on-court mentality, which Cherelle said Brittney once explained as simply powering through pain and exhaustion.

“I remember asking her once, ‘Well, how do you play so well when you’re hurting and exhausted like that?'” Cherelle said. “She told me, ‘Oh, that me? That me just goes no matter what or how I feel, I get the job done.

“I’ll be honest, that is exactly where me and my wife differ. Because I would rest at that moment. Well, we used to differ there. As the days continue to increase that my wife is wrongfully detained in Russia, I’ve adapted her mindset in my efforts to get her home by going no matter what or how I feel. Truthfully, I can’t rest as her humanity has been stripped from her. I can’t rest as her safety is in question. I honestly can’t rest until she’s home. So, as I stand here today, mirroring BG’s legendary mindset, I’ll continue calling on our government to bring her home despite what or how I feel.”

Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale was the emcee of the event, which was held on the Mercury’s home court, flanked by the two BG42 decals on the sideline near center court. Drysdale said there were three goals in holding the rally: to make the Mercury’s voices heard, to get people to sign petitions asking for Brittney’s return and to support Brittney, who has played for the Mercury since 2013.

Representative Greg Stanton, who is the former mayor of Phoenix and a current Mercury season-ticket holder, spoke first, addressing Brittney’s impact on the Phoenix community and how she is a role model “for so many, especially for the LGBTQ+ community.” Stanton said he is in regular contact with the State Department and the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

“I know there’s a highly skilled group of individuals working on her case, but it’s important that President Biden and the State Department know they have the full support of the American people to do whatever it takes to bring Brittney Griner home,” he said.

Next, former Dallas Wings center Imani McGee-Stafford called on Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to fulfill campaign promises of “uplifting and protecting Black people. It has been two years, almost, and outside of the reality we know this is a pivotal moment for them to show a follow-through to a platform that was pandered to us from every angle.”

“I don’t think someone should have to be extraordinary or exemplary for their country to protect them,” she said.

Mercury general manager Jim Pittman spoke after McGee-Stafford and said he saw Brittney days before she left for Russia in February while she worked out at the Mercury’s practice facility.

Most of the Mercury players, with Diana Taurasi and Diamond DeShields the lone exceptions, were on hand.

Mercury teammate Brianna Turner told stories of riding scooters around Indianapolis with Brittney last season, a memory that Turner included in a recent letter to Brittney. Brittney responded by telling her she remembered it fondly.

Both Turner and Sophie Cunningham spoke about communicating with Griner through letters — they send emails and receive pictures of hand-written letters back.

Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig also spoke and said he often puts himself in Brittney’s shoes to think about what she’s going through.

In between speakers, there were videos, performances by the Mercury’s dance team and a local step group, and the reading of a poem.

After the conclusion of the rally, fans, some of them holding signs that read “Bring Brittney Home,” started chanting, “Bring her home.”

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