Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard is confused as to why the team’s last game didn’t sell out with the return of former international criminal Brittney Griner, who was released from a Russian prison earlier this year thanks to an extremely controversial prisoner exchange with the world’s most notorious weapons dealer.
In her post game interview discussing the big 94-71 loss to the LA Sparks on Friday, Nygaard flipped the script and began to criticize the people of Los Angeles, specifically Sparks fans, for not showing up to support Griner.
For perspective, 10,396 fans were present for the season opener, which makes up barely half of Crypto.com Arena’s 19,058 seating capacity.
After Brittney Griner played in her first WNBA game last night since coming home from prison in Russia, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard was angry Los Angeles didn’t sellout the arena for her return:
“C’mon LA, like we didn’t sell out the arena for BG [Brittney Griner]?” said Nygaard. “Like I expected more, to be honest. Like it was great, it was loud, but how was it not a sellout?”
Hopefully this clears things up for Nygaard: The WNBA has never turned a profit, generates a measly $60 million annually, and is lucky if they pull one-fifth of the average viewership of the NBA.
Griner made international headlines last year when she was arrested and charged for possessing illegal substances in Russia. The basketball star was then held in custody for roughly ten months before the State Department got involved. She eventually was freed to return home to the U.S. after the Biden administration exchanged her for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the inspiration of the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War.
If she hadn’t had been exchanged, she would have faced nine-years in a Russian penal colony.
Upon returning to the U.S. as a free agent in the WNBA, she rejoined the Phoenix Mercury.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the media and WNBA are more excited for Griner’s return than actual fans? Let us know in the comments below and across social media.