Earlier this month, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and some of her teammates were followed at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by YouTube personality Alex Stein. Stein posted a video of him yelling political questions at Griner, and that incident sparked a lot of discussion around player safety.
But a lot of that discussion centered on why Griner and the Mercury were flying commercial. And that’s now led to a dispute between the WNBA and Griner’s agent on if the league had allowed full charter flights for the Mercury or not.
While Griner didn’t specify how exactly the WNBA and the Mercury have since addressed the situation, likely for safety reasons, she maintained that the travel situation had to hit “rock bottom” before safety for players was finally ensured when traveling from one city to the next.
“‘I’ll say this. I think we should have already had the option to use a different airline, a more private airline, charter flights,” Griner said on Sunday via ESPN. “It’s a shame that it had to get to rock bottom because I feel like waiting for something to happen and then making a change…you don’t know what that ‘something’s’ going to be. We’ve all seen what can happen in this world. And when you play the ‘let’s-wait-and-see game,’ you’re really playing with fire. You’re playing with people’s lives.
“So I’m glad that they finally got it together—and, you know, are going to allow us to do this. It’s just a shame that it took so damn long, honestly.”
Many WNBA players and their players’ associations have long pushed to make charter flights mandatory, or at least always allowed. (Some WNBA owners have previously been punished for exceeding league limits on charter travel). That was brought up in the WBPA statement on this, which said “Every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety.”
While the WNBA refuted those claims, saying it had permitted the Mercury to do all-charter travel this year, and the team had chosen not to, Phoenix has since made “adjustments” to their travel arrangements. It’s only fitting that Griner would be frustrated, as this seems like a situation that should’ve been resolved prior to the season. Player safety should be the WNBA’s utmost priority, and the fact that an incident like this needed to happen, in order for that to occur, is troubling.