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Brittney Griner Was Harassed at the Airport By Right-Wing Trolls

Although Brittney Griner is back home after enduring a 10-month detainment abroad, right-wing media trolls have decided she hasn’t suffered enough. On Saturday, as WNBA team Phoenix Mercury was catching a flight at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a conservative internet personality evaded security to follow and harass Griner.

According to a police report obtained by ESPN, the perpetrator was Alex Stein, a host on conservative network Blaze Media. Stein pushed a Mercury security representative out of the way and proceeded to film himself shouting cruel and bizarre comments at the WNBA player.

“Was that a fair trade for the Merchant of Death?” he said. “I know you kill it on court but he kills it in real life.” Griner was detained in Russia for 10 months after customs officials found a vape pen with trace amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage—which Griner told the Russian court she packed in haste. Despite this, the court sentenced her to nine years in prison, and the Biden administration ultimately secured her release through a prisoner-swap, trading arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner’s detainment had clear political motivations from the very beginning, given the US’s opposition to the war in Ukraine. But rather than criticize the Russian government, Stein does the conservative thing and blames the American victim. 

At one point, Stein shouted, “Is it true you had to have sex with Vladimir Putin to get released from Russia? What about his wife?” He then moved on to accusing Griner of boycotting America, presumably for being one of several athletes to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality in 2020.

According to the police report, Stein had vacated the scene by the time airport officials arrived. The team was escorted to a customer experience office and bordered the flight without further incident.

The security team’s failure to prevent the incident has renewed calls for charter flights. The WNBA’s 2020 collective bargaining agreement requires all teams to travel on commercial flights, citing fairness. However, for players like Griner, whose public image has become politicized, commercial air travel can pose safety risks. The WNBA has said that it would make an exception in Griner’s case, but the organization has not commented on why she was flying commercial on Saturday.

The players’ union, the WNBPA, issued a statement calling for better security and charter travel in response to the incident. “As we continue to hear from our members throughout the start of the season and particularly today with the situation involving the Phoenix Mercury at the Dallas airport, we are quite clear that the matter of charter travel is NOT a ‘competitive advantage’ issue,” the WNBPA said.

“Allowing teams to fly charter is ONLY about player health and safety, and until the league and teams take this issue seriously, situations like this will continue to occur,” they added. “Every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety. We implore the league and the teams not to wait another day to change the rule regarding travel.”

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