Brittney Griner unable to speak to wife Cherelle Griner over phone due to U.S. Embassy’s logistical error


After not speaking over the phone for four months while her detainment in Russia continues, Brittney Griner tried to celebrate her fourth anniversary with wife Cherelle Griner via a phone call on June 18. Although it was approved by the Russian government, the scheduled call never happened because the phone line at the embassy was not staffed, Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press on Monday.

Brittney Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star, has only been able to communicate with those close to her in the United States through emails and letters, so a phone call was set to be a special occasion. Per the AP report, Brittney Griner dialed the number given to her at the U.S. embassy in Moscow a total of 11 times. Each of the calls went unanswered. 

“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press. “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.”

The phone call was scheduled two weeks in advance, but the number Brittney Griner was given only transfers calls Monday through Friday. The anniversary celebration, and the phone calls, all took place on a Saturday. 

The State Department apologized for the logistical error, but Cherelle Griner was understandably emotional. 

“I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now,” she told the AP. “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.”

Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Feb. 17 and there is no timeline for when she will be home. A Russian court extended her pretrial detention until at least July 2 earlier in June.

For a complete look at the Griner’s situation, read our explainer here. 

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