Cherelle Griner, the wife of Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, opened up about the "hopeless" feeling she experienced while Griner was detained in Russia for 294 days.
The seven-time All-Star was arrested in February and sentenced to nine years in prison in August.
"I was hopeless a lot of days," Cherelle told People's Alicia Dennis. "You try and stay grounded, but I'm human. Still, I would never completely give up hope on my wife's life."
On Dec. 8, President Joe Biden announced he secured Griner's release. The White House welcomed Cherelle to the Oval Office to celebrate the occasion.
Cherelle and Brittney reunited shortly thereafter in San Antonio.
"We were both just instantly crying," she said to Dennis. "I was standing there full of tears and someone ran over and handed me a handkerchief. I definitely needed it."
Cherelle emphasized she saw firsthand how public advocacy can raise awareness to the plight of Americans detained abroad.
"Saying the names of Americans wrongfully detained plays a big piece in getting them home," she said. "We have to say their names, we have to write them, we have to keep pressure on our government to do hard things in negotiations."
That echoed what Griner wrote in a message to her supporters following her release. In particular, she called upon fans to campaign for the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for espionage in 2018.
"Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the WeAreBG campaign to bring me home and it's our turn to support them," Griner wrote. "I hope you'll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families."