WNBA star and freed Russian prisoner Brittney Griner was heckled while catching a flight at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). While it is fair to question the terms of her release, heckling someone with gratuitous insults is not okay.
Brittney Griner Heckled While Trying To Buy Food At DFW Airport
Griner spent nearly 10 months in a Russian prison after she was arrested on smuggling charges on Feburary 17, 2022. She was playing in the Russian Premier League at the time and customs officials at Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) in Moscow found vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the Russian Federation.
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison under Russia’s strict anti-drug laws. However, US officials publicly stated that she was “wrongfully detained” and on December 8, 2022 Griner was released in a prisoner exchange for Viktor Anatolyevich Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as “the merchant of death.” Bout had been arrested in Thailand in 2008 via a US sting operation in Thailand, extradited to the USA, and sentenced to 25 years in jail after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to kill American citizens and officials and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
Griner’s release was controversial considering it was predicated on Bout’s release and the situation was further mired in political controversy due to some of her past action like boycotting the National Anthem (she now stands with her teammates).
On Friday evening, a “conservative” Twitter personality approached Griner and her teammates at DFW while they were buying food and confronted Griner:
“Was that a fair trade for the Merchant of Death? I know you kill it on the court, but he kills it in real life?”
“Is it true you had to have sex with Vladimir Putin to get released from Russia? Brit? What about his wife?”
Pretty vile stuff. I’m embedding the video for reference, but I recommend you don’t click on it and give this troll any ad revenue.
The WNBA condemned the confrontation:
“As we gather additional information about today’s incident at the Dallas Airport, it has come to our attention that this was orchestrated by a social media figure and provocateur. His actions were inappropriate and unfortunate.”
“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. We remain steadfastly committed to the highest standards of security for players.”
Meanwhile, the WNBA Player’s Union now brands commercial airline flights as a threat to players:
“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.”
The whole Griner situation is a sad one. On the one hand, I don’t think it was reasonable to secure her release for Bout. Sorry, but even though it is absurd she was sent to prison for a nearly a decade over trace amounts of marijuana, the laws of Russia are clear: drugs are not permitted in any quantity, even for foreign visitors. And what do you suppose Bout is up to today? He should have rotted to death in jail.
But that’s a separate matter from the airport heckling. As I said when Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D – Arizona) was also confronted at the airport, this sort of ambush-style tactic is not constructive.
The US is highly-polarized right now and reasonable debate has given way to harsh confrontations in which rabid ideologues showboat on social media. Welcome to 2023. This is not going away.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was heckled at DFW Airport by a trolling YouTuber.
I can’t say I blame the players’ union for wanting to charter aircraft for players…or at least for Griner. These sorts of exchanges are more than just uncomfortable, they cross the line of decency and put her and others in danger if the wrong person is incited to act against them.
image: @alexstein99 / Twitter