Brittney Griner faced 'excessive harassment' at Dallas airport. Mercury, WNBA respond.

Several WNBA athletes are calling for the league to do more for player safety while traveling after Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was subjected to "excessive harassment" at a Dallas airport on Saturday.

The Mercury were traveling to Indianapolis from Dallas Saturday morning following a 90-77 loss to the Dallas Wings on Friday when an "inappropriate and unfortunate" confrontation occurred, the league said.

Phoenix forward Brianna Turner said people were following the Mercury with cameras while shouting "wild remarks" at them. "Our team nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about," Turner recalled on Twitter.

The WNBA said the incident "was orchestrated by a social media figure and provocateur" who singled out Griner, the six-time All-Star who was detained for nearly 10 months in Russia after being found guilty of carrying hash oil in her luggage while playing overseas.

Twitter user @alexstein99 shared a photo of himself "calling out Brittney Griner" in the airport and posted a snippet of the encounter, where he yelled at her that she "hates America." He teased the release of the full video.

May 19, 2023: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during play against the Los Angeles Sparks at Arena in Los Angeles, California.
May 19, 2023: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during play against the Los Angeles Sparks at Arena in Los Angeles, California.

The Mercury said they're "reviewing the incident." In a statement, the team added: "We are committed to our support of BG and advocating for all American hostages abroad.  We will continue our support of marginalized communities and fighting the kind of hate that targeted us today.  No one, regardless of identity, should ever fear for their safety. We will be coordinating with the WNBA on next steps.”

The WNBA said "the safety of Brittney Griner and all WNBA players is our top priority."

"Prior to the season, the WNBA worked together with the Phoenix Mercury and BG’s team to ensure her safety during her travel, which included charter flights for WNBA games and assigned security personnel with her at all times," the statement said. "We remain steadfastly committed to the highest standards of security for players.”

The incident resurfaces the issue of charter flights for WNBA teams for player health and safety. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert previously said it's "just not in the cards right now" without sponsors or backers to offset costs. Engelbert estimated it would cost more than $20 million to charter all 12 teams for the entire season.

“We've asked all the major airlines. We've asked charter companies. I've been working on this since the moment I came into the league. ... If we could get it sponsored or funded in some way ... I'm all ears," she said earlier this year.

The Women's National Basketball Players Association, however, said "every commercial flight forced upon our players is a threat to their health and safety," primarily Griner, who faces security concerns after being released from Russian detainment in December.

"What BG and all of her PHX teammates experiences today was a calculated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe," the WNPBA said in a statement Saturday. "Everyone who was paying attention knew this would happen. We could have and should have been more proactive. ... We implore the league and the teams to not wait another day to change the rule regarding travel."

After Saturday's incident, Turner concurred: "Player safety while traveling should be at the forefront. People following with cameras saying wild remarks is never acceptable. Excessive harassment."

In April, likely in response to significant inside and outside pressure to improve travel, Engelbert and the WNBA announced an increased charter program for the 2023 season. This year teams will charter for the entire playoffs, the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup game and “select” regular season contests where teams have back-to-back games scheduled.

Contributing: Lindsay Schnell

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittney Griner subjected to 'excessive harassment' at Dallas airport