More details have come to light regarding the harassment aimed at WNBA star Britney Griner from a conservative YouTube personality last week. The incident led her team, the Phoenix Mercury, to promise future “adjustments” in protocol when they travel.
According to a police report obtained by ESPN, a man approached Griner and began accosting her as she was walking through a concourse at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday morning. She was with her team, traveling home from a game in The Lone Star State. The dogged disturber had his cell phone filming out during the attempted exchange. He also had associates of his on hand who were involved in his stunt.
The man in question, a right-wing, YouTube ‘shock star’ named Alex Stein, is associated with conservative outlet TheBlazeTV and his channel describes him as ‘the troll the Left fears more than any other.”
During the alleged altercation, a Mercury security guard stayed between Brittney Griner and the YouTuber, who tried to push his way toward her while making loud, offensive statements meant to get a reaction from Griner.
While Griner is no favorite of many American sports fans due to her social and political stances, Stein’s behavior did go beyond the boundaries of good taste. Among several off-color remarks, he asked her if the U.S. made a fair trade exchanging her for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, asked if she had sex with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get out of prison, and made repeated claims she hates America.
Brittney Griner ignored him throughout the diatribe, while the security guard reportedly pushed him against a wall in the concourse. She reportedly waited inside of a gated area until officers arrived. However, at that point, Stein had already escaped the area.
The security guard on hand reportedly declined to press charges against Stein, who apparently did not have an American Airlines ticket. He reportedly left via the Skylink Train toward Terminals B and D.
The occurrence has sparked a decision by the Phoenix Mercury and some other teams to reevaluate how they travel and the level of security that they will be providing the players going forward. While this incident didn’t lead to a violent confrontation, it was certainly a wake-up call. And considering the controversy that has swirled around Griner since her return to the United States, it shouldn’t be too surprising.
Many will remember that the imposing 6’9″ center was detained by Russian authorities last year on drug smuggling charges for possessing traces of marijuana in her bag, causing an international incident.
In a nation where narcotics violations are considered a much higher-profile crime than in America, her status as a professional athlete turned the situation into an international incident and instantly made Griner a ‘high-profile prisoner’. After 10 months under arrest in Russia, she was returned in exchange for the notorious foreign agent, arms dealer, and murderer Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.
The fact that a basketball player was (for lack of a better term) ‘traded’ for a man known worldwide as ‘The Merchant of Death’ didn’t sit too well with a lot of people. They viewed it as the Biden Administration basically giving in to not only public demands but the whims of Putin, as well.
That sentiment was the one being expressed by Stein during his impromptu airport interview, albeit in a rather obtuse way. However, his attempt at attention did reignite a debate involving travel around The Ladies’ League.
“Player safety while traveling should be at the forefront,” tweeted Mercury forward Brianna Turner. “People following with cameras saying wild remarks is never acceptable. Excessive harassment. Our team nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about. We demand better.”
WNBA players have requested for years that the league allow them to travel via charter flights, an idea the league has consistently rejected because of the huge difference in expenses. Brittney Griner’s incredibly complicated situation, however, created an obvious security risk in traveling via public airport terminals.