Cherelle Griner has had two very different phone calls with her wife, Brittney Griner, since the WNBA star was arrested in Russia for drug possession in February. The first time, she was delighted. “It was just so delightful just to hear her voice,” Cherelle disclosed about the first call. She thought her wife was okay and that they “could survive this.”
But the second phone call had her worried. “You could hear that she was not okay. If you think about just a person’s suffering and when they have suffered to a max…she was at the max that day,” Cherelle told “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King.
Griner remains in a Russian prison ahead of an appeal hearing on Oct. 25.
Cherelle said that after the second call ended, “I think I cried for about two, three days straight. It was the most disturbing phone call I’d ever experienced.”
“It’s just the most still, I think, moment I’ve just ever shared with my wife,” she added. “I didn’t have words.”
The WBNA all-star and Olympic gold medalist was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after she was found with less than a gram of hash oil in vape cartridges, which she had prescribed for chronic pain. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
“I do believe a crime should warrant a punishment,” Cherelle remarked. “But it must be balanced.”
“B.G. has truly suffered beyond her crime already,” she added.
Cherelle said she is hoping a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia happens before the upcoming hearing. A recent meeting at the White House reassured her that President Biden is fighting alongside her.
“He’s doing what he can. But there’s another party in this situation, and we also are dealing with the need for Russia to have mercy on B.G. as well,” Cherelle said.
She said she fears what will happen if Griner’s appeal is denied.
“Once that hearing is held, and the order is finalized, B.G.’s now in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp,” Cherelle said. “My brain can’t even fathom it.”
She added that Griner is already struggling as she waits for her freedom.
“I don’t know if she has anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has no one,” Cherelle said.
Cherelle said that her wife is “at her absolute weakest moment in life right now,” and fears that she will be forgotten in Russia.
“She’s, like, saying things to me like, ‘My life just don’t even matter no more,’” Cherelle said. “You know, ‘I feel like my life just doesn’t matter. Like, I’m just being tossed around, like, for people’s enjoyment and gain.’”
When the WBNA all-star was sentenced in August, she told the courtroom that she made an honest mistake, and that she hoped that the court’s ruling doesn’t end her life. Cherelle said that as Griner questions if her life matters, she wants her to know that she is fighting to bring her back to the United States.
“Those are all valid emotions to feel and I don’t have answers for, except the fact that your life matters to me, and I wanna get you back home,” she said. “I’m gonna continue to pray every day that, you know, the people that are the decision-makers in this situation will have mercy and will sit down, and they will too see that your life matters, and do whatever they can to agree — on terms.”
Cherelle said she felt some hope when she heard about the release of Trevor Reed, the former U.S. Marine who gained his freedom in a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia.
“When Trevor Reed was released, you woulda thought that it was Brittney Griner, because that’s how happy I was. And I had not met the Reed family yet, but I just know immediately, I went on Instagram and I made a post and I was so happy for his family. Because I know what I’m feeling. And I’m just, like, wow. Like, it ended for them that day. What I’m feeling ended for them that day, and I was so happy,” she said.
The White House said it has a substantial deal on the table, and has urged Russia to consider it, or bring a strong counteroffer.
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