CHICAGO — Joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who pleaded guilty Thursday to drug possession charges in a Russian court, made an emotional plea to authorities.
In town for this weekend’s WNBA All-Star game, set to be played at Wintrust Arena on Sunday, the pair expressed concerns about Griner’s criminal trial and conditions in the Russian jail she has been held for more than four months.
“We ought to rise to the same level that Brittney has and say, ‘wait a minute, right is right.’ She has stood up and I hope we show young people and fans around the world that when you stand up, that you will face what is fair and right,” Sharpton said.
The vocal faith leader condemned Russia for limiting conversations between the incarcerated star and her wife.
“Bring Brittney home,” Sharpton said. “Bring her home to her wife. We are going to stand with her until you do.”
Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while returning to play basketball in Russia.
Russian police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in Griner’s luggage. Thursday’s plea could see the Phoenix Mercury center sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Cherelle Griner, thanking supporters.
Earlier this week, Griner wrote a letter to President Joe Biden expressing fears that she would never return home. In response, Biden spoke with Griner’s wife, assuring her that the White House was doing all it could to bring the star back to the US.
Cherelle Griner said she was able to read the letter, saying the President’s response brought her and Brittney much joy.
“I believe every word she said to him, he understood,” Griner’s wife said. “He sees her as a person and he has not forgotten her, which was her biggest cry in the letter.”
Cherelle Griner also thanked the WNBA and its players for standing with Griner. Teams have also paid tribute to the star throughout the season and the WNBA would guarantee her 2022 salary, Griner revealed. Th 31-year-old has been named an honorary starter at Sunday’s All-Star, set to tip off at 1 p.m.
Northwestern’s Dr. Jordan Gans-Morse has studied Russia’s justice system and says the imprisoned Griner had no chance to contest drug charges.
“It’s very hard to defend somebody in the Russian courts,” Gans-Morse told WGN News. “Given the way that the system is set up and the given that she is a celebrity and an American in a very politicized moment, she was advised that there was no way she was going to win, so the best she could hope for is leniency and pleading guilty.”