The WNBA released a statement Saturday addressing some “inappropriate and unfortunate” actions toward Brittney Griner inside the Dallas airport earlier in the day.
The league, which did not provide further details on the matter in the release, said that it was gathering additional information about Saturday’s incident and that the “safety of Griner and all WNBA players” remains a “top priority.”
“Prior to the season, the WNBA worked together with the Phoenix Mercury and BG’s team to ensure her safety during her travel, which included charter flights for WNBA games and assigned security personnel with her at all times,” the statement read. “We remain steadfastly committed to the highest standards of security for players.”
According to the league, the person at the center of the incident with Griner was described as a “social media figure and provocateur.” The Athletic’s Ben Pickman reported that the person the league described in its statement is Alex Stein, the host of Prime Time with Alex Stein on Blaze TV.
Stein initially tweeted a photo of himself with the Mercury star, using the caption “Calling Out Brittney Griner.” Stein then quoted his own tweet, saying “I just met my favorite WNBA player Brittney Griner” and “video coming soon.”
He later tweeted a snippet of the video, asking Griner “did she still want to boycott America.” When Stein was asked to stop “being weird” in the video, he further added that Griner “hates America.”
Since the @WNBA is writing press releases about me…here is a snippet of my interaction with Brittney Griner today….— Alex Stein #99 (@alexstein99) June 10, 2023
Watch the Full Video on my YouTube Channel Sunday Morning 10am Centralhttps://t.co/fe07WOHjct pic.twitter.com/FEnp8Vll6d
The incident comes after the Wings defeated the Mercury, 90–77, at College Park Center in Arlington on Friday night. As of now, it is not clear if the Mercury were preparing to get on a charter flight. However, Phoenix is scheduled to face the Fever at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Travel has been a heated topic within the WNBA landscape in recent years. In April, ahead of this year’s WNBA season, the league announced that it would provide charter flights for regular-season games where organizations are playing in back-to-back games as well for this year’s postseason games.
Following Saturday’s incident involving Griner, the WNBA Players Association released a statement further emphasizing that teams need chartered flights for every game during the season.
“We are quite clear that the matter of charter travel is not a ‘competitive advantage’ issue,” the statement read. “We cannot help but wonder if the league and teams preclude more reasonable and flexible rules regarding charter travel in 2023 in order to seek leverage on this issue at the bargaining table.
“What BG [Griner] and all of her PHX teammates experienced today was calculated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe. Everyone who was paying attention knew this would happen. We could have and should have been more proactive. Allowing teams to fly charter is ONLY about player and health safety, and until the league and teams take this issue seriously, situations like this will continue to occur.”
Brianna Turner, Griner’s teammate on the Mercury, expressed her own frustration with the league’s safety policy when traveling to and from cities throughout the season.
“Player safety while traveling should be at the forefront. People following with cameras saying wild remarks is never acceptable. Excessive harassment. Our team nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about. We demand better,” Turner tweeted.
Griner played in her first WNBA game in over 18 months against the Sparks on May 20 after serving a nearly 10-month detention and incarceration in Russian prison for allegedly carrying cannabis oil in an airport. She was released and returned to the United States in December.
The Phoenix Mercury released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/w0Wu0ZHfla— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) June 10, 2023