Head coach Vanessa Nygaard said that Phoenix Mercury will make changes to improve the safety of its players following the harassment of Brittney Griner at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
“League rules mandate that I can’t speak about travel, but I can speak about safety, so we will ensure that our players and our organization and our staff are safe,” Nygaard said ahead of the Mercury’s Sunday game against the Indiana Fever.
“We will be making adjustments that maybe should’ve happened before, but right now, we’re going to prioritize the safety of our players, and we’ve seen that our organization has supported us,” he added..
The Women’s National Basketball Association star, Brittney Griner, was confronted by a man while she was at the airport en route to a game with teammates on Saturday morning.
The man yelled at the WNBA star, calling her “the Merchant of Death.” Brittney Griner, who was freed from Russia in December after being detained for trying to smuggle in drugs while entering the country.
The police later intervened as the incident escalated.
Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner swap that involved Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout – nicknamed the “Merchant of Death”, after spending 300 days in Russian custody.
The WNBA said it worked with the Mercury and Griner’s team to ensure her safety prior to the season, adding that she had now been given permission to charter flights.
The airport incident did not hinder Griner’s performance. She scored a season high 29 points and grabbed six rebounds in an 85-82 victory, just the second this season for the Mercury.
“It’s unnerving to be in a situation like that and unfortunately, it was literally the first time we were in public together,” said star Diana Taurasi. “That can’t happen for our players or coaches. The safety of everyone comes first; basketball is secondary to all that.”
“People have families, kids and to be put in that situation really is pretty disrespectful not only to BG but to our team, to the league. So hopefully they can take steps into making sure the security of our players throughout the league is at the forefront.”