NEW YORK (AP) – The WNBA is working with Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury on travel options, including future charters.
Griner’s travels were back in the spotlight last week when the team took a flight to Texas and then Indiana, requiring Griner and her Mercury teammates to fly through commercial airports. As the All-Star center, who had been jailed in Russia for nearly a decade, passed through a Dallas airport last Saturday, he was harassed by what the WNBA described as a “provocateur.”
The league does not allow teams to charter unless they have back-to-back games.
Many teams use the public charter airline JSX. These flights are permitted by the WNBA with certain protocols, including teams flying in the 30-seat aircraft to preset routes and times.
The Mercury flew JSX to their first away game in Los Angeles and took the airline to Dallas. The airline didn’t have a standard Dallas-Indianapolis flight available, so Griner sat on the commercial flight.
The question remains who would pay if the WNBA allowed Griner to fly privately. And if the league allowed Phoenix to use JSX to fly to each of the other 11 cities that teams play in by creating their own flights, how would other teams view that as it would give Mercury a potential competitive advantage?
The league said Griner’s safety was an ongoing concern even before the start of the season. League officials spoke with Mercury officials and representatives from the seven-time All-Star about how to protect Griner and her teammates after the high-profile legal case that saw her jailed in Russia on drug charges before being released on a prisoner swap in December.
The league gave Griner permission to book charter flights of his own before the start of the season.
“We’re just working with Phoenix to make sure we have a good plan going forward,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told ESPN on Friday, “certainly for Brittney and the rest of the Phoenix Mercury.”
The chief executive of the WNBA players’ union spoke to Griner Thursday and said she was frustrated.
“She said, ‘We knew this was going to happen,'” Terri Jackson said. “She said, ‘Terri, I’ve read the mail that’s arriving in my locker. It’s fan mail, but it’s also a lot of hate mail.’”
The Mercury are currently on a two-game road trip to Washington and New York. Griner did not play in Friday’s loss to the Mystics due to a hip injury.