June 11, 2023 

Players and coaches speak up about the Brittney Griner incident

Three of four WNBPA VPs have spoken out about the issue

Players around the league continued to speak out Sunday about the incident involving Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury being harassed at the Dallas airport on Saturday, as well as the conditions that allow these acts to occur.

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Among the many people to speak out, three of the five Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Players Association (WNBPA) have spoken out about the incident in addition to the official statement released by the WNBPA.

Breanna Stewart, a forward for the New York Liberty, emphasized the importance of prioritizing player safety for WNBA players in her pregame media availability on Sunday.

“I think that player safety should be first and foremost. And everyone was aware that BG coming back to the WNBA this season was going to be a little bit different,” Stewart said. “A lot more eyes, a lot more publicity, positives and negatives, and wanting to make sure that she’s protected at all times.”

A prevailing theme is that players want to ensure that Griner feels secure while traveling and be herself. “I think it’s a little bit just traumatizing for all of us to think about because we feel for her and we want her to be safe and know that when she’s back with us, she should be able to be herself,” Stewart said. “So, I think that there need to be extra precautionary measures taken. I don’t think anyone is against BG having charter flights whenever she wants so that she can be herself and travel and be comfortable and be safe because that’s the last thing we want, is what happened yesterday.”

Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics echoing Stewart’s statement about allowing Griner to use charter flights to every game

Stewart acknowledged Brianna Turner, a fellow WNBPA Vice President, for raising awareness about the incident. “What I found out was from [Brianna] Turner on Twitter, which props to her for kind of speaking up and letting everyone know about the situation,” Stewart said. “But I think that what comes from it is just making sure that we have one another’s back, the solidarity and the fact that we are all representing the WNBA and representing BG and making sure that we’re supporting her in whatever way possible.”

Stewart expressed frustration about the lack of action regarding charter flights. “I’m not the one that decides if we have charters or not, because you know how we feel as players, as most franchises organizations,” Stewart said. “But this is something that we’ve been talking about months before the season started, and it’s just frustrating that we have to go through something like this to have more change.”

Sandy Brondello, head coach of the New York Liberty and Griner’s coach in Phoenix for seven years, expressed how heartbreaking the incident was and highlighted the significance of protecting the players.

“It’s unfortunate. What happened to [Brittney Griner] that should never happen,” Brondello said. “So hopefully, change can happen. But for us, nothing has happened yet … do we have to wait for [something to happen]? That’s the big thing: players have to be protected.”

Satou Sabally, a forward for the Dallas Wings and the youngest of four Vice Presidents of the WNBPA, said that she has faith that the union is taking productive steps to prioritize the health and safety of the players. Sabally echoed the belief that the WNBA ought to respond to the Griner incident and stressed that players deserve improved treatment.

“I’m really proud to be a member of the union,” Sabally said. “I do think that our union is doing great things to assure our players’ … needs and our players’ health. And I do think by [our] statement, we did exactly that. What happened to BG cannot just be solved with an apology from the league, but with action. And I do think that they will follow that through. We deserve better. We all deserve better.”

Written by Aya Abdeen

Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next Hoops since December 2022. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.

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