Following the “excessive harassment” faced by Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner at a Dallas airport last Saturday, several WNBA players have urged the league to take more action to ensure player safety during travels.
After a 90-77 loss to the Dallas Wings on Friday, the Mercury were en route to Indianapolis on Saturday morning when an “inappropriate and regrettable” altercation occurred, as mentioned by the NBA.
Brianna Turner, a player for the Phoenix Suns, reported that onlookers were trailing the Mercury with cameras and shouting “wild remarks” at the team. Turner recounted on Twitter, “Our team nervously huddled in a corner, uncertain of how to proceed.”
WNBA commissioner Dana Wanzer stated that the incident “was orchestrated by a social media figure and provocateur” who targeted Griner, a six-time All-Star currently detained in Russia for transporting hash oil.
Someone using the Twitter handle @alexstein99 tweeted a photo of themselves “confronting Brittney Griner” at an airport and a brief clip where they shouted at Griner that she “hates America.” He hinted that the actual footage would soon be available.
The Mercury has announced that they are “investigating the incident.” The team added, “We are committed to our support of BG and advocating for all American hostages abroad,” in their statement.
We will continue to combat prejudice like the type that targeted us today and stand with those who are marginalized.
It is unacceptable for anyone, regardless of their identity, to ever feel threatened. The next steps will be decided in collaboration with the WNBA.
As per the WNBA, “The safety of Brittney Griner and all WNBA players is our top priority.”
The WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury, and BG’s team coordinated before the season to “ensure her safety during her travel,” the statement read.
This includes charter planes to WNBA games and having security guards always accompany her.
We’re still committed to safeguarding our users with military-grade encryption.
The incident once again highlights the need for charter planes for WNBA teams to ensure the safety of its players.
Prior to this, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned that it was “simply not feasible at the moment” without financial support. According to Engelbert’s estimates, chartering all 12 teams for the entire season would cost over $20 million.
The major airlines have been approached. We have inquired with charter companies. I’ve been striving for improvement ever since I entered the league… “I’m all ears if we can find a way to get it sponsored or funded,” she remarked earlier this year.
In response, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association issued a statement saying, “Every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety,” particularly Griner, who has security concerns following her release from Russian detainment in December.
BG and her Phoenix Mercury teammates faced “a premeditated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe,” the WNPBA stated in a statement released on Saturday.
Those who had been paying attention expected this to occur. We should have taken more initiative and could have done better. We urge the league and the teams not to postpone changing the travel policy any longer.
Turner concurred when asked about the significance of player safety during travel after the event on Saturday. It is never acceptable to trail someone with a camera while making outrageous comments. Abuse to an extreme degree.”
Engelbert and the WNBA indeed felt considerable internal and external pressure to expand the charter program for the 2023 season, so they did so in April.
The WNBA playoffs, the Commissioner’s Cup game, and “select” regular season games where teams have back-to-back games planned will all require chartering this year.