The Phoenix Mercury adjusted their travel plans after All-Star player Brittney Griner was confronted by a "provocateur."
On Saturday, Alex Stein, a YouTube influencer and Blaze TV host, shouted questions at Griner while recording his ambush at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
"BG was that a fair trade for the merchant of death?" Alex Stein shouted at Griner in the video and added, "I know you kill it on the court, but he kills in real life." Stein also asked Griner if she still wanted to boycott America.
Blaze TV describes itself as a "right-of-center news and entertainment network."
Stein attempted to skirt security multiple times to get closer to Griner while recording the incident on a phone.
"No one should be a victim of targeted harassment," Phoenix Mercury Coach Vanessa Nygaard said in a briefing. She added that as a coach, she just wants her team to be safe.
Lindsay Colas, Griner's agent, released a statement on Twitter Saturday morning following the confrontation.
"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."
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
Phoenix Mercury Forward Brianna Turner called for player safety on Twitter, adding that the team "nervously huddled in a corner" after the incident.
Griner was detained in Russia for 10 months on drug charges. The U.S. traded Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for her freedom. The drawn-out case and Griner's closely watched court hearings leading up to her release garnered attention worldwide and raised concerns about her safety when she returned to the court with the Phoenix Mercury.
The Women's National Basketball Players Association released a statement calling the ambush a "calculated confrontation" and went on to say, "everyone who was paying attention knew this would happen." The organization added, "every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety," and called on the league to implement immediate changes to travel rules.
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
The Women's National Basketball Association has been flying commercially since 1997. While NBA players travel in luxury private flights for games, WNBA players deal with flight delays and cancellations. NBA and WNBA players have called for changes to ensure the safety of WNBA players, and called for more charter flights.
In April, the Women's National Basketball Association expanded charter flights for players starting with the playoffs this season through the finals and select games. While this is a step forward, some are calling for more to be done to prevent run-ins with outsiders.
In a statement, the WNBA called the Blaze TV host a "provocateur" and his actions "inappropriate" and "unfortunate." The organization said the safety of Griner and all WNBA players is their top priority. The WNBA worked with the Phoenix Mercury and approved charter flights for Griner and assigned security personnel before the season started.
Nygaard said the team has adjusted road trip plans moving forward but did not release details. She's calling on the league to take additional steps to keep traveling teams safe and secure.
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