The WNBA is gathering "additional information" after Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was harassed in a Dallas airport following the Mercury's Friday game against the Dallas Wings. Following the incident, the league released a statement calling player safety its "top priority."
The league's full statement:
"As we gather additional information about today's incident at the Dallas Airport, it has come to our attention that this was orchestrated by a social media figure and provocateur. His actions were inappropriate and unfortunate.
"The safety of Brittney Griner and all WNBA players is our 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. We remain steadfastly committed to the highest standards of security for players."
The Mercury released a statement confirming the incident and saying it would work with the WNBA to figure out the next steps.
“We are reviewing the incident that took place today at the Dallas airport. The health and well-being of our players and staff are our top priority and we will always take every step within our power to protect player safety.
“We are committed to our support of BG and advocating for all American hostages abroad. We will continue our support of marginalized communities and fighting the kind of hate that targeted us today. No one, regardless of identity, should ever fear for their safety. We will be coordinating with the WNBA on next steps.”
Mercury forward Brianna Turner gave some insight into what happened at the airport. She said the team experienced "excessive harassment" and "nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about."
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.
— Brianna Turner (@_Breezy_Briii) June 10, 2023
Turner ended her tweet by saying, "We demand better."
The WNBPA agreed. The union urged the league to implement chartered flights for all games.
That statement read:
"As we continue to hear from our members throughout the start of the season and particularly today with the situation involving the Phoenix Mercury at the Dallas airport, we are quite clear that the matter of charter travel is NOT a 'competitive advantage' issue. 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 and all of her PHX teammates experienced today was a calculated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe. Everyone who was paying attention knew this could happen. We could have and should have been more proactive.
"Allowing team to fly charter is ONLY about player health and safety, and until the league and teams take this issue seriously, situations like this will continue to occur.
"Every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety. We implore the league and the teams not to wait another day to change the rule regarding travel."
Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, also called on the WNBA to implement chartered flights and "enhanced security measures for all players."
and today’s incident is a clear reminder of that.
We cannot celebrate these women and their leadership without also protecting them.
It’s past time for charters and enhanced security measures for all players. #WeAreBG
— Lindsay Kagawa Colas (she/her) (@kagawacolas) June 10, 2023
In April, the WNBA expanded its charter flights program to include the playoffs and back-to-back games. The league prohibited teams from paying out of pocket for chartered flights because it considered them to be a competitive advantage. The league's statement indicated it had approved charter flights for Griner this season.
Prominent WNBA players, such as Breanna Stewart, have pushed hard for the WNBA to charter all team flights. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that would cost roughly $25 million per year, and implied that price was too steep for the league.