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Brittney Griner's Wife Cherelle Says WNBA Star at 'Weakest Moment' After Phone Call

Adam WellsOctober 6, 2022

US' Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a "lenient" sentence. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Cherrelle Griner said her wife, WNBA star Brittney Griner, is "at her absolute weakest moment in life right now" as she awaits an appeal hearing in Russia on Oct. 25.

Speaking to Gayle King of CBS Mornings, Cherrelle explained she became very concerned after a recent phone call with Brittney.

"You could hear that she was not okay," she said. "If you think about just a person's suffering and when they have suffered to a max…she was at the max that day."

Cherrelle noted Brittney's tone was in stark contrast to what she was like during the first phone conversation they had.

"The first time, she was delighted. It was just so delightful just to hear her voice," Cherrelle said.

Brittney Griner is awaiting an appeal hearing after a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession and smuggling.

Per ESPN's T.J. Quinn, the sentence was expected after Griner pleaded guilty to the charges in July.

"But she and her supporters have also been aware that Russia was not going to move forward with a trade that could bring her home until her trial was completed," Quinn wrote. "A guilty verdict was considered a foregone conclusion, and Griner pleaded guilty July 7, though the case continued under Russian law."

The Russian government originally detained Griner in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport for having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

She has been held in Russia for 231 days.

Griner was entering the country to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League. She joined the team in 2014 and has played for the club in between WNBA seasons as one of a number of WNBA players who play elsewhere during offseasons for supplemental income.

In the wake of Griner's sentencing, President Joe Biden issued a statement calling on Russia to release her. He added the administration will "continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan [a former U.S. Marine arrested on espionage charges in Russia in 2018] home safely as soon as possible."

Russia's foreign ministry said on Aug. 18 it was engaged in "quiet diplomacy" with the U.S. about a potential prisoner exchange involving Griner. The U.S. government has offered to send Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, to bring Griner and Whelan home.

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said the U.S. received a counterproposal from Russian officials that he described as "a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has put forward" in an interview with CNN (h/t Insider).

Cherrelle Griner told King she hopes a deal can be reached before the appeal hearing because Brittney could be "moved to a labor camp" if her appeal is denied.

Biden met with Cherrelle and Elizabeth Whelan, sister of Paul Whelan, in the Oval Office on Sept. 16 to assure the families the United States is doing everything in its power to get Brittney and Paul back to the country.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday the U.S. has yet to receive a serious response to its offer of a prisoner exchange and it needs "to see a serious counter-offer."

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