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Cherelle Griner on wife Brittney Griner’s detention: ‘She’s a political pawn’

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Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, wants President Joe Biden and the U.S. government to use their power to bring the WNBA star home. Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since February.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts that aired Wednesday, Cherelle Griner called on Biden to act.

“I just keep hearing that he has the power,” Griner said. “She’s a political pawn. So if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”

Brittney Griner was taken into custody in a Moscow airport for alleged possession of hashish oil. Russian authorities have charged Griner with “large-scale transportation of drugs,” which could mean up to 10 years in prison, but the U.S. government considers her to be “wrongfully detained.”

The seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist has played for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason since 2015. In an interview Wednesday with ESPN, Cherelle Griner revealed that this was set to be her wife’s last season overseas.

“She just said she was so exhausted from always having to go overseas,” Cherelle Griner said. “So we talked about it, and I was like, ‘Let’s just make this your last year overseas then.’

“I’m just so sorry she’s going through this. Like, it kills me.”

Former United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson, who was the governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011 and helped to negotiate the recent release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed from Russia, has been helping on Griner’s case.

“The Russians held [Reed and Griner], I believe, as bargaining chips,” Richardson told Bryant Gumbel in an interview on HBO’s “Real Sports” that aired Tuesday night. “They want something in return. Usually another prisoner, a Russian, in the United States. I’m convinced the Russians are going to ask for something in return, because Brittney Griner is very high profile.

“What makes it doable is that the president of the United States is ready to consider prisoner exchanges, which we haven’t [done] too much in the past.”

Reports from Russian media have indicated that the U.S. and Russia are discussing possibly exchanging Griner for Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer convicted in the U.S. But Alexander Boikov, the lawyer for Griner, said that he has not received any information on any possible exchange.

Cherelle Griner is left waiting on any movement in Brittney’s case. She has had no verbal communication with her wife since before Brittney Griner’s arrest.

“I’m in a position of complete vulnerability right now,” she said. “”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.

“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.'”

The spouses have have communicated through letters, and Cherelle Griner revealed that the outpouring of support Brittney has received from the WNBA has brought the star player “comfort” during her in detention.

The WNBA is honoring Griner this season with a floor decal that has her initials and jersey number (42) on the sidelines of each court. Additionally, every team is holding a shoe drive for Griner’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive.

“Things like that matter, like, it has her hopeful,” Cherelle Griner told Roberts. “It lets her know she’s not forgotten. Those small moments, I know, give her some type of hope.”

For her part, Cherelle Griner is driving support and awareness as she pushes for the return of the woman she calls “the glue to our family.”

“When we have been able to communicate, via letters, she’s like, ‘I am so sorry I’m making your life hard right now. Don’t give up on me, though,'” Griner said. “And I’m like, ‘I’m not going to give up on you. This isn’t your fault.'”