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Phoenix Mercury To Adjust Travel Plans Over 'Safety' Concerns Following Britney Griner, Alex Stein Incident

Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard: 'We’re Going To Prioritize The Safety Of Our Players ... We’ve Seen That Our Organization Has Supported Us'

Phoenix Mercury will make adjustments to players’ travel arrangements citing “safety” concerns after star Britney Griner was approached in an airport by self-proclaimed culture jammer Alex Stein.

Stein, who refers to himself as “Prime Time #99,” recorded himself approaching Griner and her security team at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. Stein questioned the WNBA star about her experience being released from a Russian prison last year and referenced previous comments Griner has made that are critical of America.

“League rules mandate that I can’t speak about travel, but I can speak about safety, so we will ensure that our players and our organization and our staff are safe,” said head coach Vanessa Nygaard prior to the Mercury’s Sunday game against the Indiana Fever.

“We will be making adjustments that maybe should’ve happened before, but right now, we’re going to prioritize the safety of our players, and we’ve seen that our organization has supported us.”

“Everyone who was paying attention knew this would happen,” reads a statement from the WNBA regarding Griner’s altercation with Stein. “We could have and should have been more proactive.”

“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.”

On Sunday afternoon, Stein shared video of himself confronting Griner to his Twitter account.

“Was that a fair trade for the Merchant of Death?” Stein asks the WNBA star, referencing her release from prison in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner’s security attempts to intervene in Stein’s recording as he continues, “I know you kill it on the court but he kills in real life.”

“Is it true you had sex with Vladimir Putin to get released from Russia?” he continued as security attempted to distance Stein from the WNBA star.

“Do you still wanna boycott America?” Stein asked, referencing previous sentiments from Griner prior to her imprisonment in which the WNBA star expressed criticism in the United States.

“The Merchant of Death, Brit,” he says. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

In May, Griner played her first WNBA game since being released from a Russian prison saying her experience hearing the national anthem “definitely hit different.”

“I didn’t think I would be sitting right here. I didn’t think I would be playing basketball this quickly,” Griner said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go getting back into it. I mean, I’m grateful to be here for sure. I’m not going to take today for granted, but it was a lot to take in.”

“You have the right to protest, the right to able to speak out, question, challenge and do all these things,” Griner said expanding on her statement, ESPN reported. “What I went through and everything, it just means a little bit more to me now. So I want to be able to stand. I was literally in a cage [in Russia] and could not stand the way I wanted to.”

“Just being able to hear my national anthem, see my flag, I definitely want to stand. Now everybody that will not stand or not come out, I totally support them 100 percent. That’s our right, as an American in this great country.”

In August 2021, Griner was sentenced by a Moscow court to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis into Russia. While traveling through the Sheremetyevo Airport in February, Griner was detained by police who said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The Phoenix Mercury player was arrested the following February and pled guilty on July 7, although she testified that she had mistakenly put the CBD oil canisters in her luggage while hastily packing. Judge Anna Sotnikova also fined the professional athlete 1 million rubles – about $16,700.

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