‘I was hurt’ wife of Griner critical of U.S. Embassy for not being staffed for 1st phone call since detainment

Griner still detained in Russia
FILE – Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is shown during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at a Russian airport on February 17 after authorities there said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has not heard the WNBA star’s voice even once in the four months since her arrest in Moscow. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

Phoenix Mercury center, Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17th. 

Since that time, Griner has not spoken to her wife, Cherelle, with their only contact being second hand accounts from lawyers and consular affairs officials. 

That appeared to be changing with the Griner’s scheduled to speak on the phone over the weekend thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Russia. 

The call never happened.

Griner reportedly tried calling 11 different times on Saturday, only to have no-one answer because the U.S. Embassy was not staffed on Saturday. 

“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?” Cherelle said. “Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”

In this image from video, Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, speaks to The Associated Press Monday, June 20, 2022. Brittney Griner tried to call her wife nearly a dozen times through the American embassy in Russia on the couple’s fourth anniversary Saturday, but they never connected since the phone line at the embassy was not staffed, Cherelle Griner said Monday. (AP Photo)

Cherelle also went on to question the fact of the U.S. Embassy not being staffed on Saturday when the call had reportedly been scheduled for weeks. 

The State Department said Monday in a statement “we deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error.”

In May, the United States government designated Griner as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. 

The missed call over the weekend was an important time for the couple after not speaking for months.

“This was such a big moment because this would have been the first time where I truly could tell if she’s OK,” Cherelle said. “I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,”

The couple were expected to speak on the day of their four-year anniversary. 

Cherelle Griner sees league-wide Support

Cherelle has spoken publicly many times on her wife’s detainment. On many occasions she has called on President Biden to address her wife’s detainment but has not spoken about the ordeal. 

The NBA has also spoken out about the ordeal. (Lakers forward) Lebron James, (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver and the Boston Celtics have all spoken out about Griner’s detainment in the last few weeks alone. 

The former first overall pick from Baylor has been with the Mercury for nine seasons and has won a WNBA title with the team back in 2014. The center was in Russia because she plays overseas during the offseason for a Russian basketball team based in Yekaterinburg.

Because of low contract amounts in the WNBA, salaries offered by foreign leagues can draw players from the United States. 

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