(Reuters) – The wife of detained Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player Brittney Griner has urged U.S. President Joe Biden to help get the twice Olympic gold medalist out of Russia.
Griner was detained at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges and she faces up to 10 years in prison.
The U.S. State Department this month determined that Griner was wrongfully detained, and has assigned diplomats to work for her release.
An emotional Cherelle Griner, speaking out publicly about her wife’s detention for the first time, called on Biden to do all he can to bring Brittney home.
“I just keep hearing that he has the power. She’s a political pawn,” Cherelle Griner said in an interview that aired on the ABC News “Good Morning America” program on Wednesday. “So if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”
Griner’s arrest at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport came as diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow deteriorated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian customs service said at the time that the alleged offence could carry a prison term of five to 10 years for Griner, who for years has played for a Russian professional team during the WNBA off-season.
Griner told “Good Morning America” that her wife texted her when she was first taken into custody but that her phone was taken away and that although the two have not spoke for nearly 100 days, they have communicated “sporadically” through letters.
The WNBA, which kicked off its 2022 season three weeks ago, is honoring Griner with a floor decal bearing her initials and jersey number on the sideline of its 12 teams.
“Things like that matter, like, it has her hopeful,” Griner said. “It lets her know she’s not forgotten.
“Those small moments, I know, give her some type of hope.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)