(NEW YORK) — Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, spoke out on The View following a Russian court denying the WNBA star’s appeal on drug charges.
Griner told the co-hosts that the denied appeal was “just disheartening” and left her in “complete disbelief.”
“I understand being in the field of law that every state, every country has their own rules, but this is just absurd,” she 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.”
Brittney is a two-time Olympic gold medalist that plays professional basketball for Phoenix Mercury, but flew out to Russia during the WNBA’s off-season to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg. On Feb. 17, she was accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia, and detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki.
On April 29, the U.S. State Department officially classified Brittney’s case as a wrongful detention. After nearly five months of being detained in Russia, Brittney pleaded guilty on drug charges and said in her testimony that she had no “intention” of breaking the law.
On Aug. 4, Brittney was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. The judge of a Moscow-area court found that Griner had criminal intent and said she was guilty of smuggling and storing illegal drugs.
When asked about her thoughts on whether Brittney’s sentence was politically motivated, Griner told The View that “there’s no other way for me to see it except the fact that this is political.”
Griner noted that Brittney is an international basketball player that’s won championships, played undefeated seasons and was awarded MVP of WNBA All-Star Weekend.
“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,” Griner said.
“It’s not her footprint. Her footprint is amazing for Russia. She’s paying taxes there,” Griner continued. “She’s great for Russia.”
Co-host Sunny Hostin, who’s on the WNBA Board of Advocates, pointed out the pay inequity to the league compared to the NBA, saying the reason for Brittney’s travels to Russia was so she could supplement her salary.
“I’m grateful that my wife was willing to go overseas and make sure that I could go to law school and that we could have a home and things like that,” Griner told Hostin. She still encourages players to go overseas to play in the off-season if needed, but to “pay attention to the geo political nature of where you’re going, because B.G. left, and by the time she landed there was an e-mail from the WNBA that was saying if you’re going to Russia we recommend you not go and if you’re already there we recommend you come home, but it was too late.”
Last week, Brittney appeared virtually for an appeal hearing and urged the court to reassess her sentence and apologized for her “mistake.”
“I beg that the court takes in all of the stakes that was overlooked in the first court and reassess my sentence here,” Brittney said, adding that it has been “traumatic” to be away from her family.
Brittney is expected to serve out the entirety of her sentence in a penal colony labor camp, which are known for their harsh conditions. Co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin said that her situation is “only made worse” by the country’s history of homophobic persecution.
Griner said that it’s impossible not to love Brittney once you meet her, but she still prays that wherever she ultimately ends up serving out her sentence, “her personality can do her a little bit of favor in keeping her safe.” Still, “the fear is the fact that there’s so much discretion here.”
“There is no one way they have to do anything there, and that is very [sic] tetrifying to know they can wake up one day and say yes to something, and wake up one day and say no,” she continued. “That’s not a safe place to be.”
Since Brittney’s detainment in February, Griner has been working to bring awareness to her case through her initiative “We Are BG,” which is committed to bringing all wrongfully detained Americans home. She also met with President Joe Biden on Sept. 16.
Biden “appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during her readout of the meeting. “The President held the meetings to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely. He asked after the wellbeing of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time.”
“We all admire the courage of the Whelan and Griner families in the face of these unimaginable circumstances, and we remain committed to reuniting them with their loved ones,” she continued.
In July, the Biden administration said it had made a “substantial proposal” to Russia to have Brittney and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan returned to the U.S. without success.
Prior to Brittney’s denied appeal, her attorney Alexandr Boikov told ABC News, “Her being afraid of not being released is mostly connected to the negotiations, which we are not aware of at all.”
Griner also had the opportunity to speak with Brittney a week before her the appeal hearing. “Her mental it’s not there, and she told me, ‘I’m really just trying to hold on to the last bit of you that I can remember."”
“We spoke only three times so far out of the eight months that [Brittney’s] been sentenced,” Griner said. She went on to tell co-host Whoopi Goldberg that she’s been in contact with the U.S. State Department since Brittney was first detained, but much of what goes on behind the scenes is considered classified information. “For the most part they try kind of keep updated as possible on what’s happening with the negotiations”
For those feeling helpless thinking of the situation Brittney is in, Griner said, “words make a big difference,” so she’s set up a letter writing campaign through “We Are BG” to remind her that she’s “important” and “impossible to forget.”
“Be her strength for her right now, because she doesn’t have it,” Griner said of her wife.
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