Cherelle Griner received a standing ovation as she walked to the podium during the ‘Bring Busy Home’ rally at the Footprint Center Wednesday afternoon.
As she waited for the audience to stop applauding, she watched her prepared speech about her wife, Phoenix Mercury Center Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for 139 days.
“It’s easy and natural for me to talk about my wife because that’s who I am,” says Cheryl. “However, talking about my wife, in the context of her being away from her country, her safety and her humanity as a person.”
Griner has been detained in Russia since his arrest on February 17 at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow. She is accused of large-scale drug trafficking and faces 5-10 years in prison if convicted. According to the Associated Press, less than 1% of defendants in criminal cases in Russia are acquitted.
Griner’s trial began on July 1 and prosecutors claimed she had a “substantial amount” of THC in the form of hashish oil equivalent to 0.56 grams. Griner’s trial in Russia continues Thursday.
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Cherelle Griner is the rally’s featured speaker.
Standing in the middle of the court, he told how his wife had adopted a strong mindset
“I once asked her, ‘Well, how do you play well when you’re so hurt and tired?’ ” Cherelle said. “She said to me ‘Oh, is that me? No matter what I do or how I feel, I get the job done.’
“That’s where we disagree. As the days of my wife’s wrongful detention in Russia grew longer, I adopted her mentality in my efforts to bring her home by going no matter what I did or felt. Honestly, I can’t rest because her humanity is being stripped from her. I can’t rest because her safety is in question. Honestly I can’t rest until she comes home.
Cherelle Greiner spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday morning after Brittney Greiner sent a personal letter to Biden, stating her fears about staying in Russia forever.
Brittney Greiner wrote letters from Russia to her wife, as well as colleague Briana Turner. Despite Griner’s situation in Russia, Turner says she still exudes the same sense of humor through her letter.
“I told her how she was going to be an honorable mention All-Star starter, and BG had a great sense of humor,” Turner said. “She told me she probably has the worst stat line because she’s not in the game. To know BG is to know such a good person, such a giver.”
More than 2,000 people attended a rally at the Footprint Center in support of Griner’s return to the US
Shauna Finley, 70, has been a Phoenix Mercury fan since the team’s inception in 1997. Finley said she has a daughter the same age as Griner, 31, and can’t imagine what it would be like to have a family member wrongfully detained. .
“I think it took a long time for her to be there,” Finley said before the rally. “… I think we’re getting secondhand information because I don’t know what Russia is allowing to get here, what the situation is. And she’s an American citizen, she should come back here.
Marine veteran Trevor Reed was detained in Russia for nearly three years before being released in a prisoner exchange at the end of April. Griner and Paul Whelan, who have been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges, are still wrongfully detained in Russia.
Representative Greg Stanton questioned why Greiner needed to play offseason basketball overseas in the first place. Stanton coordinated the rally with the Mercury and in June authored a bipartisan resolution in the US House of Representatives to free Griner.
“Griner is one of the best basketball players on the planet,” Stanton said. “And we need to do something about the fact that an athlete of her caliber had to go to Russia to earn extra money to earn a salary commensurate with her skill. She had to go to a dangerous place in a dangerous country at a time of incredible tension between the United States and Russia.
“We need to do something about it. We need to talk to our leaders in the NBA, because we pay our WNBA players enough that they don’t have to get a side gig in a dangerous place. It’s not right or fair.”