Brittney Griner is struggling to deal with her imprisonment
2nd November 2022

‘She’s 100% not okay’: Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle asks supporters to write to the 32-year-old basketball star because she is struggling to stay strong after her appeal against the nine and a half year prison term was denied last week

  • Brittney was sentenced on August 4 after pleading guilty to drug possession charges
  • She had been caught with two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil 
  • Wife Cherelle is devastated by the WNBA star’s nine-year jail term in Russia 
  • She made emotional speech at Glamour Awards about missing her wife
  •  Said she cannot believe she is without her greatest love and her sanctuary 
  • Asked guests and viewers to write messages to her on #WeAreBG or weareBG.org
  • Griner is expected to serve out her entire sentence in a penal colony labor camp

Brittney Griner’s wife has said she is not doing well in prison and has asked members of the public to write to her after her appeal against the nine-year jail term was rejected last week. 

Her wife Cherelle is devastated by the WNBA star’s imprisonment which she is serving in Russia after pleading guilty to drug possession.

Brittney, 32, was sentenced earlier this fall for carrying two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo airport. 

She had been playing basketball in Russia to supplement her income in the WNBA off-season as players are paid more there.

Cherelle, who desperately wants to reunite with her wife, made an emotional speech to the attendees of Glamour’s 2022 Women of the Year Ceremony in New York.

The attendees included Women of the Year Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Shannon Watts and the Haim sisters. 

She said: ‘I’ve spent the last eight months riding waves of grief and to be honest, just total disbelief.

‘I can’t believe that I’m standing in front of you guys and living without my favourite person, my greatest love, my sanctuary.’  

Cherelle, who desperately wants to reunite with her wife, made an emotional speech to the attendees of Glamour’s 2022 Women of the Year Ceremony in New York, pictured 

Griner is expected to serve out the entirety of her sentence in a penal colony labor camp in Russia, which are known for harsh conditions.

The 32-year-old has a huge network of supporters including the American government and human rights organizations working to get her home.

Her devoted wife added in her speech at the Glamour Awards that while Brittney is strong, she is ‘100 percent not okay.’

She explained that there is little she can do to ease the pain that her wife is feeling and that she cannot bring her back.

But she said she is using the power of words to make a difference, encouraging guests and viewers to write a note to her in support.

Those who want to write her a message to her can use the hashtag #WeAreBG or go on weareBG.org. 

Her devoted wife, pictured together, added in her speech at the Glamour Awards that while Brittney is strong, she is ‘100 percent not okay’

In her own recent message to her wife, she said:  ‘Babe, I’m missing everything about you. Especially your friendship. I took for granted being able to talk with you. I catch myself picking up my phone, only to sit it back down because your voice is the only voice I want to hear.

‘It’s giving, I’ll likely talk your ear off once you’re home. 

‘I know your heart is heavy right now babe. I wish you were here to feel all the love that surrounds you. You are not forgotten. So, keep your head up champ. This too shall pass! I love you and I cannot wait for the day that I get to embrace you! Love, Relle.’

Brittney was in Russia during the WNBA off-season to make some extra money.

Other colleagues including Jonquel James and Diana Taurasi have played in the same country as they make better money than in the US.  

A screen shows two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA player Brittney Griner during a hearing of her appeal on vedict at the Moscow Regional Court in Krasnogorsk

Cherelle’s emotional speech comes after she said the Russian court’s decision to deny the WNBA star’s appeal has left her in ‘complete disbelief’ and that the nine-year prison sentence feels ‘political.’

Cherelle appeared on Tuesday’s episode of The View just days after her wife’s harsh sentence was upheld in a Russian court. 

She described her wife’s sentence as ‘absurd’ and ‘disproportionate’ compared to other crimes and punishments in the country.

The Phoenix Mercury star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted in August on drug possession charges after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Griner is expected to serve out the entirety of her sentence in a penal colony labor camp in Russia, which are known for harsh conditions.

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle appeared on The View where she described her wife’s 9-year sentence as ‘absurd’ compared to other punishments in the country

Griner was convicted in August after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport

‘To see that the totality of the circumstances of who she is as a person was not taken into account when they rendered a decision, it makes me feel like this – at this point – has to be political,’ Cherelle told the co-hosts Tuesday.

‘It’s not her footprint. Her footprint is amazing for Russia. She’s paying taxes there,’ she continued. ‘She’s great for Russia.’

Griner was not at the Moscow Regional Court hearing but appeared via video link from a penal colony outside the capital where she is held.

The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

‘I understand being in the field of law that every state, every country has their own rules, but this is just absurd,’ Cherelle said. 

‘The crime and the punishment is disproportionate at its finest … There are people convicted of murder in Russia who [have] a sentence way less than B.G., and it just makes absolutely no sense to me.’

‘That was the complete end of it. There’s nothing more to expect from a legal standpoint and all eggs are in basket, you know, for our government and for America to see how important this issue is,’ she continued. 

‘This could happen to anybody and we should be praying that we have a country that recognizes the importance of that and are willing to actually go get our Americans and bring them back home.’ 

Cherelle said she has only spoken to her wife a few times since her imprisonment in February and said that Griner’s mental health is suffering. 

‘It has been really hard trying to adjust how to live every day,’ she told the hosts.

‘There’s nothing more to expect from a legal standpoint,’ she said. But added that viewers can support Griner by joining the letter-writing campaign.

She said she will hold onto hope that her wife’s ‘personality can do her a little bit of favor in keeping her safe’ inside the Russian labor camp.

‘If you met BG, it’s impossible not to love her,’ she said. 

Griner was not at the Moscow Regional Court hearing but appeared via video link from a penal colony outside the capital where she is held

Griner is expected to serve out the entirety of her sentence in a penal colony labor camp in Russian, which are known for harsh conditions

At her trial in August, Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but testified she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.

While upholding the sentence, the court said last week Griner’s prison time will be recalculated to reflect what she has already served in pre-trial detention. One day in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1 1/2 days in prison, so she still will have to serve about eight years in prison.

Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in an email that they were ‘very disappointed’ with the decision because they still believe ‘the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice.’

‘Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia,’ they said. ‘She had hopes for today, as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her.’

They said they had to discuss with Griner what legal steps they should take next.

Griner’s arrest in February came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner was returning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA´s offseason.

WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner is pictured with her wife Cherelle Griner. The basketball star is facing nine years in a Russian prison after a ‘cannabis-filled vape pen’ was found on her.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the decision ‘another failure of justice, compounding the injustice of her detention,’ adding that ‘securing her release is our priority.’

President Joe Biden told reporters that his administration is in ‘constant contact’ with Russian authorities on Griner and other Americans who are detained there. While there has not been progress on bringing her back to the U.S., Biden said, ‘We´re not stopping.’

Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be ‘wrongfully detained’ – a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that Biden ‘is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home.’

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the decision ‘while unfortunate, was not unexpected. … It is time to bring this case to an end and bring BG home.’ The WNBA Players Association said the ruling was ‘further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained — she is very clearly a hostage.’

Because of the growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to bring Griner home, Blinken took the unusual step of revealing in July that Washington had made a ‘substantial proposal’ to get Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is seen on October 25 during her hearing to appeal her conviction on drug charges

Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the ‘merchant of death.’

The White House said it has not yet received a productive response from Russia to the offer.

Russian diplomats have refused to comment on the U.S. proposal and urged Washington to discuss the matter in confidential talks, avoiding public statements. But some Russian officials have said a deal is more likely once appeals have been exhausted.

In September, Biden met with Cherelle Griner, the player’s wife, as well as her agent, Lindsay Colas. Biden also sat down separately with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan´s sister.

The White House said after the meetings that the president stressed to the families his ‘continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.’

The U.S. and Russia carried out a prisoner swap in April. Moscow released U.S. Marines veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for the U.S. releasing a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted in a drug trafficking conspiracy.

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