It’s bad enough that WNBA star Brittney Griner has been locked up in a Russian prison for something as trivial as alleged possession of hashish oil in vape cartridges, but to add insult to injury, Griner hasn’t been able to speak with her own wife, Cherelle Griner.
Well, that was supposed to change on Saturday, when a call the couple had arranged with officials at the American embassy in Russia for their fourth wedding anniversary was supposed to take place, according to The Associated Press.
That call never happened and Cherelle is understandably devastated and pissed the hell off at the reason she and her partner missed their long-awaited call. It all apparently came down to a staffing issue. Can you believe that?
On Monday, she said she learned from her wife’s lawyers a more distressing truth: Brittney Griner had actually tried to call 11 times over a period of several hours, dialing a number she’d been given at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, which the couple had been told would then patch the call through to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. But each time, the call went unanswered because the desk at the embassy where the phone rang was apparently unstaffed on Saturday.
Imagine this; you’re in prison overseas and you’re trying to make an arranged phone call to your significant other, who you haven’t spoken to in four months, but that call never happens because no one at embassy customer service was at work at the time.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle told AP. “I’m pretty sure I texted BG’s agent and was like: ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s going to take me a minute to get my emotions together and just tell everybody I’m unavailable right now. Because it just knocked me out. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well.”
Officials with the State Department said in a statement Monday that they “deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error,” and they reportedly said the department is looking into what went wrong.
ESPN noted that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the State Department was working to arrange a new call but did not say when that would be.
Meanwhile, Cherelle said a contact in the U.S. government apologized to her and it was explained to her that the number Brittney was given to call only processes prisoner calls Monday through Friday, but not on the weekend.
Obviously, Cherelle wasn’t buying it.
“But mind you, this phone call had been scheduled for almost two weeks—with a weekend date,” she told AP. “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.”
Up until now, Cherelle has had to rely on the word of others to know that her wife is doing OK as he’s imprisoned in Russia. That should have changed Saturday. The couple’s anniversary was to be the day that Cherelle would have been able to hear of her wife’s condition straight from her own mouth.
“This was such a big moment because this would have been the first time where I truly could tell if she’s okay,” Cherelle said. “This would have been the first time for me to actually just hear her in real-time and to truly know if she’s okay or to know if she’s seconds away from not being in existence anymore.”
Our hearts go out to Brittney and Cherelle Griner. No one who hasn’t committed a serious crime deserves to be treated this way.