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Brittney Griner's Wife Cherelle Says the WNBA Star Is 'At Her Absolute Weakest' Right Now in Russia

People 10/6/2022 Amethyst Tate

Brittney Griner/Instagram © Provided by People Brittney Griner/Instagram

Cherelle Griner is speaking candidly about her wife Brittney's mental state as she remains locked up in a Russian prison.

In February, the 31-year-old WNBA star was arrested in Russia after airport customs officers found vape cartridges containing .7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage. Six months later, she was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison on charges of smuggling drugs into the country, a decision her lawyers called "absolutely unreasonable." Brittney's lawyers soon filed an appeal, and hearings for that will begin Oct. 25.

In her first interview since Brittney's sentencing, Cherelle spoke with CBS Morning's Gayle King and voiced her concern about her wife's ordeal, saying Brittney is a "hostage."

"On its face it just seems like my wife is a hostage. To know that our government and the foreign government is sitting down and negotiating for her release? She's a hostage," Cherelle said.

Cherelle is hoping Brittney could come home via a prisoner swap between U.S. and Russia before the Oct. 25 hearing.

A meeting last month at the White House solidified to her that President Biden is making efforts to secure her wife's release. Cherelle told King, "He's doing what he can. But there's another party in this situation, and we also are dealing with the need for Russia to have mercy on B.G. as well."

Cherelle T. Griner/Instagram © Provided by People Cherelle T. Griner/Instagram

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"I have heard so many stories about this exact situation happening with Americans going through Russia and at the airport they were told, 'Pay a fine and go on with your day.' But because B.G. is Brittney Griner, I do think this got really complicated really quickly," Cherelle told King.

Brittney does has a prescription for medical cannabis in Arizona for chronic pain, but in Russia, no amount of cannabis is legal.

Cherelle emphasized that she is well aware that crime deserves punishment, especially since she works in the legal field, but "it must be balanced."

"It tears me to pieces to see that this is not balanced for my wife right now. So I want people to see that. To see, has she suffered enough. B.G. has truly suffered beyond her crime already," Cherelle said.

Since Brittney's arrest in February, communication between herself and her wife has been limited. They were not able to talk until August, six months after the WNBA star was arrested. They had two phone conversations, and she said hearing Brittney's voice during the first call was "delightful."

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Brittney Griner holds up a photo of her teammates while in court © Provided by People EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Brittney Griner holds up a photo of her teammates while in court

RELATED: A Timeline of Brittney Griner's Detainment in Russia

"At that point I was like, you know what, I think she's okay. We can survive this," Cherelle told CBS Mornings.

But that sentiment changed after their second phone call.

"The second phone call? I just…the minute I hung up, I think I cried for about 2, 3 days straight. I did not get out of my bed. It was the most disturbing phone call I've ever experienced. And I've known B.G. 11 years. I was like, 'That's the most disturbing conversation.'"

She said that she had to listen as her wife broke down in tears. "I didn't have words — because at this point, I'm like, I don't know if she has anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has no one."

Cherelle added that her wife is "at her absolute weakest moment right now."

Ethan Miller/Getty Cherelle and Brittney Griner © Provided by People Ethan Miller/Getty Cherelle and Brittney Griner

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She said Brittney is afraid. "She's very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia or just completely used to the point of her detriment. Because she's saying things to me like, 'My life just don't even matter no more. I feel like my life doesn't matter. Like, y'all don't see me? Y'all don't see the need to get me back home? And just nothing?'"

Later this month, Brittney will find out whether or not she will be released from Russian prison.

"In my brain I'm like, 'in two weeks, please have figured this out.' Now, she's in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp, and my brain can't even fathom it," Cherelle said. She is praying that her Brittney will be able to celebrate her 32nd birthday on Oct. 18 back home in the United States.

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