NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA is working with Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury on travel options, including charter flights in the future.
Griner’s trip was in the spotlight again last week when the team took a flight to Texas and then Indiana, requiring Griner and her Mercury teammates to go through commercial airports. As she walked through the Dallas airport last Saturday, the All-Star center, who has been detained in Russia for nearly 10 months, was harassed by what the WNBA called a “provocateur.”
The league does not allow teams to use charter flights except when they have back-to-back games.
Many teams use public charter airline JSX. These flights are authorized by the WNBA with certain protocols, including that teams fly the 30-seat planes using pre-set routes and times.
Mercury flew to his first road game in Los Angeles on JSX and took the airline to Dallas. There was no standard airline flight available from Dallas to Indianapolis, so Griner was on the commercial flight.
Questions remain about who will pay for it if the WNBA allows Griner to fly privately. And also, if the league allowed Phoenix to use JSX to fly to any of the other 11 cities the teams play in, creating their own flights, how would the other teams view that, since it would give of Mercury a potential competitive advantage.
The league said Greener’s safety has been an ongoing concern since before the season started. League officials spoke with Mercury officials and representatives of the seven-time All-Star about how to protect Greener and her teammates after the high-profile court case that saw her jailed in Russia on drug charges before being released in December at prisoner exchange.
The league gave Greener permission to book his own charter flights before the start of the season.
“We’re just working with Phoenix to make sure we have a good plan going forward,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Friday on ESPN, “certainly for Britney and the rest of the Phoenix Mercury.”
The executive director of the WNBA players’ union spoke with Griner on Thursday and said she was disappointed.
“She said, ‘We knew this was going to happen,'” Terri Jackson said. “She said, ‘Terry, I’ve read the mail that comes in my locker. It’s fan mail, but there’s also a lot of hate mail.”
The Mercury are currently on a two-game road trip to Washington and New York. Griner did not play in Friday’s loss to the Mystics with a hip injury.