‘Terrifying’: Wife of Brittney Griner describes what it’s like to watch and wait

Brittney Griner's wife Cherelle Griner spoke to Gayle King about the fears and worries she is having before an appeal hearing on Oct. 25.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Brittney Griner’s wife spoke about her emotional journey since February when the Phoenix Mercury player was detained in Russia on drug charges. Cherelle Griner told CBS Morning’s Gayle King that she’s terrified for her wife. The couple last spoke after Brittney’s sentencing in August. It was a conversation Cherelle said left her crying in bed for three days. “It’s like a movie for me,” Cherelle told King. “I’m like, in no world that I ever thought, you know, our president and a foreign nation president we’d be sitting down having to discuss the freedom of my wife. And so to me, as much as everybody’s telling me a different definition of what [Brittney Griner] is it feels to me as if she’s a hostage.”

“It terrifies me,” she continued. “Because maybe when you watch movies, like sometimes those situations don’t end well. Sometimes they never get the person back. So this is not a movie though. This is my life.”

Police in Russia arrested Brittney, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, in February at an airport in Moscow. They said they found cannabis vape cartridges with residue in her luggage. Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but testified that she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain. Two months ago, a judge sentenced her to nine years in a Russian prison. A Russian court will hear an appeal later this month.

The White House says President Joe Biden is ordering his team to engage with Russian counterparts to bring Grinner home immediately. Her February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner, recognized as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, was returning to Russia, where she played during the U.S. league’s offseason.

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. Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.

You can catch Good Morning Arizona’s interview with Gayle King Thursday morning when she talks more about her exclusive interview with Cherelle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.