Brittney Griner's Wife Cherelle Says Embassy Staffing Issues Led to Missed Phone Call

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 20, 2022

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. A Moscow court announced it has extended the arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner until May 19, according to the Russian state news agency Tass. Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges. They were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File

The wife of wrongfully detained Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner says she was unable to speak with Griner over the phone this past weekend because calls to the American embassy in Moscow went unanswered.

Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press' Eric Tucker and Doug Feinberg on Monday that Brittney attempted 11 times to phone her through the U.S. embassy. However, nobody was at the desk to pick up the call.

Cherelle said she was "distraught," "hurt" and "fed up" following the situation.

Tucker and Feinberg provided additional context:

"The experience has further exacerbated already simmering frustrations about the U.S. government's response to her wife's case. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are working behind the scenes to get the two-time Olympian home from Russia and consider her case a top priority. But Cherelle Griner said she remains 'very pissed' by the snafu, especially since the call had been on the schedule for two weeks and yet no one warned her during that time that it might be logistically impossible because of the weekend."

Griner has remained detained in Russia for 123 days. She was arrested in February at a Moscow airport for allegedly having cannabis oil in her luggage. Last week, a Russian court extended her detention until at least July 2.

Shortly after Griner's arrest was reported in the U.S., there was a level of caution about how much to publicize her cause and call for her release. Tom Firestone, a former legal adviser for the U.S. embassy in Moscow, told ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Mechelle Voepel that her plight could become a political issue if it gained widespread attention.

However, the U.S. government officially classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" in early May, which meant government representatives would start working to get her home. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Cherelle on May 14 to reassure her the State Department was doing what it could to resolve the matter.

On June 13, representatives from the Mercury met with State Department officials:

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

The Phoenix Mercury players, coaches, staff and WNBPA staff met this morning with members of the United States Department of State to discuss the status of Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention in Russia. <a href="https://t.co/A4wzxT4BuZ">pic.twitter.com/A4wzxT4BuZ</a>

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

<a href="https://t.co/83gtP0Cs3l">pic.twitter.com/83gtP0Cs3l</a>

But the government is bound to draw renewed scrutiny in the wake of the AP's report.

Cherelle, who has not spoken with her wife on the phone since the ordeal began, told Tucker and Feinberg she has "zero trust in our government right now."