WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia for about four months at this point. Her detention has been extended three times, with the most recent extension being to next week, July 2. The US has had limited access to her and the US government has officially classified her as a wrongfully detained person. It is unclear what’s being done to ensure her safe return, but it is thought by many experts that Russia is angling for a prisoner exchange.
However, the most recent fustercluck involving Brittney’s case is not Russia’s fault. America can take full responsibility for this one. Brittany’s wife of four years, Cherelle, was scheduled to speak to her for their anniversary. But the American embassy had no one there to connect the call.
Since being detained by Russian authorities in February, seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner has been unable to speak to her wife, Cherelle Griner.
According to the Associated Press, the Russian government approved a call last Saturday so the couple could speak on their fourth wedding anniversary. But Cherelle waited by the phone for hours, and the call never came through.
In an interview with the outlet, Cherelle claims Brittney’s lawyers said her wife called a number given to her at the U.S. embassy in Moscow nearly a dozen times over “several hours.”
The calls — which the couple believed would connect Brittney to Cherelle in Arizona — were never answered because the desk at the embassy where the phone rang was allegedly unstaffed on Saturday.
“I find it unacceptable, and I have zero trust in our government right now,” Cherelle told 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.”
Cherelle told the outlet that the incident left her “not well.”
Representatives for Griner and the U.S. State Department did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment on Tuesday.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said, “my heart breaks into pieces every time I think of it,” in a post on Twitter.
“It’s nothing compared to the reality [Brittney] and her family are enduring,” she added.
In a statement to AP, a State Department representative said, “We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error.”
Cherelle told AP a U.S. government representative has since apologized to her. The number Brittney was given typically processes calls from prisoners on Mondays through Fridays but not weekends, which is why no one was there to transfer the call, she added.
“But mind you,” Cherelle said in the interview with the outlet, “this phone call had been scheduled for almost two weeks — with a weekend date.”
To recap: Russia approved a scheduled call for the couple, Brittney repeatedly called the US embassy in Moscow so they could connect her to her wife, and no one picked up because no one works at the US embassy on weekends. The call was scheduled two weeks in advance. WTF. What a complete failure. Cherelle hasn’t seen her wife in four months because she is in Russian detention; the US government has failed to bring Brittney home and they can’t even handle a call scheduled two weeks in advance because it’s on a weekend. Could they not afford the overtime or does no one care? I’d say they deserve a big apology, but they deserve much, much more than that and what they’re currently getting from the US government. What Cherelle says — if she can’t trust the government to handle a scheduled call, how can she trust them to negotiate Brittney’s safe release — is very sad and very true.