Brittney Griner and Mercury teammates confronted at airport by ‘Provocateur’, WNBA says


DALLAS (AP) — Brittney Griner and her Phoenix Mercury teammates were confronted by a “provocateur” at a Dallas airport on Saturday, the WNBA said.

The league said in a statement it was looking into the team’s altercation with a “social media personality” whose “actions were inappropriate and unfortunate.”

“The safety of Brittney Griner and all WNBA players is our top priority,” the league said, without specifying exactly what happened.

Griner and her supporters had campaigned for charter flights after she returned from detention in Russia, saying the high-profile case endangered her safety and that of others. The league gave Griner permission to book their own charter flights to road games.

Mercury player Brianna Turner said in a tweet People at the airport followed the team with cameras and said “wild remarks”.

“Excessive harassment,” Turner tweeted. “Our team sat nervously in a corner, not knowing how to move. We demand better.”

A Twitter user posted a video that seems to show part of the confrontation.

The Bring Our Families Home Campaign, an advocacy group working to bring home Americans held hostage or imprisoned abroad, released a statement condemning the incident.

“It is unacceptable to denounce a recently returned hostage in this manner and we urge social media companies to ban the monetization of resulting content. Our campaign stands with Brittney, her teammates and the Phoenix Mercury,” the organization said.

Griner received a warm welcome from audiences at home in Phoenix and on the road. She played two games in her home state of Texas last week and the team traveled to Indianapolis on Sunday to play the Fever.

The WNBA added charter flights for the playoffs this season, but only a handful of consecutive regular-season games were scheduled for such flights.

Since the league’s inception in 1997, WNBA teams have flown commercially during the regular season. Typically, the league does not allow teams to fly on charters as this could create a competitive advantage for teams that can afford to pay for it.

“Prior to the season, the WNBA worked with the Phoenix Mercury and BG team to ensure their safety during their journey. This included chartered flights to WNBA games and she was provided with security personnel at all times,” the league said in a statement. “We remain consistently committed to the highest safety standards for players.”

The WNBA players’ union issued a statement Saturday saying the situation at the airport “makes it very clear that the issue of charter travel is NOT a ‘competitive advantage’ issue.”

“What BG and all of their PHX teammates experienced today was a calculated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe,” the WNBPA statement said. “Anyone who was paying attention knew this was going to happen.”

The Mercury released a statement saying the team will be working with the league on next steps.

“We are committed to supporting BG and standing up for all American hostages abroad,” the team statement said. “We will continue to support marginalized communities and fight the kind of hate that is preying on us today. No one, regardless of identity, should ever fear for their safety.”

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