WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for over 120 days and the news surrounding her case continues to be grim. A scheduled phone call that she was supposed to have with her wife Cherelle on Saturday never happened due to a “logistical error” by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The call was supposed to take place on the couple’s fourth anniversary.
Cherelle assumed that Russian authorities disrupted the call but found out on Monday that Griner called 11 times over a span of several hours. The U.S. Embassy was supposed to patch the call to Cherelle, but the desk where the phone rang was unstaffed. The call was scheduled two weeks in advance.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle said. “I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now. If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home? Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”
On Monday, the State Department said that “we deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error.” While the department continues to explain how Griner’s return to the United States is their top priority, Cherelle has become more despondent about the U.S. government’s response to Griner’s case.
Cherelle desires to meet with president Joe Biden or speak with him, but her hopes for that have been dwindling. “At this point it’s starting to feel like a no,” she said.
This would have been the first time Cherelle and Griner talked to each other since she was put in custody at the Sheremetyevo International Airport for having cartridges of cannabis oil in her luggage.
In May, the State Department reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” but Russian president Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman Dmitry Peskov believes otherwise.
“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” Peskov said. “[There are] hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.”
Possessing hashish could lead to a maximum penalty of a 10-year sentence in Russia. He did not say if Griner will be released soon. The Khimki Court of the Moscow Region has extended Griner’s detention to July 2 at “the request of the investigation.”
In early June, Griner was able to receive emails and letters from WNBA players, but they had to be printed out and vetted by Russian authorities. The Phoenix Mercury recently met with the State Department to learn more about Griner’s detainment.
NBA players have also shown their support for Griner, Lakers star LeBron James sent out a tweet explaining how people can show their support. Fellow Lakers star Carmelo Anthony also tweeted a video demanding for Griner’s return. The Boston Celtics wore t-shirts that said “We Are BG” during a practice prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
“The shirts were super important not only showing our support for our sister that is detained over in Russia, Brittney Griner,” NBPA vice president and Celtics forward Grant Williams said. “We just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have throughout not only the NBA but the WNBA.”