Brittney Griner Is Taking a Mental Health Break

WNBA star Brittney Griner is taking a timeout.

The Phoenix Mercury announced on Saturday that the All-Star center, 32, will not travel with the team for their upcoming two-game road trip in order to focus on her mental health.

“The Mercury fully support Brittney, and we will continue to work together on a timeline for her return,” the team said in a statement, according to Sports Illustrated.

The Mercury is set to take on the Chicago Sky on Sunday, followed by a matchup against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday.

Griner made her triumphant return to the WNBA in June after missing all of last season while serving a nearly 10-month detention in Russia on drug charges that U.S. officials heavily disputed. She was released in a prisoner swap between the two countries in December.

At the Mercury’s June 7 game against the Dallas Wings — where Griner was cheered on by her wife Cherelle, her high school coach and members of her AAU basketball team — the athlete opened up about what it was like to be back with her team after her difficult ordeal in Russia.

Arike Ogunbowale and Brittney Griner.

Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty

“It was good seeing everybody and just being back in Texas,” she said at the time. “I miss being here. When I came out and they announced my name, the love meant a lot to me.”

However, Griner’s return has not come without challenges. On June 10, she was harassed by a “provocateur” as she and her Mercury teammates were traveling through the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Alex Stein, a YouTube personality, uploaded a video to the platform featuring himself confronting the basketball player with a camera as she walked through the airport alongside her teammates.

While pointing the camera at Griner’s face, the video shows Stein repeatedly asking her about her experience being taken into custody by Russian officials last year. He also questioned if she “had sex with Vladimir Putin” to be released, among other remarks..

A source told CNN that the encounter took place around 9:30 a.m. local time when the team was on their way to a game. The man, the outlet said, was eventually tackled, and law enforcement got involved.

“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,” the WNBA said in a statement shared on Twitter at the time.

“His actions were inappropriate and unfortunate,” the league continued. “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.”

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Griner later broke her silence on the incident, saying it was a “rock bottom” moment for the league, according to ESPN.

“I’ll say this. I think we should have already had the option to use a different airline, a more private airline, charter flights,” she explained while speaking to the media on June 26. “It’s a shame that it had to get to rock bottom, because I feel like waiting for something to happen and then making a change … you don’t know what that something’s gonna be.”

She continued, “We’ve all seen what can happen in this world. And when you play the, ‘Let’s-wait-and-see-game’ you’re really playing with fire. You’re playing with people’s lives.”

Griner added that she was “glad” the league “finally got it together” to “allow” players to travel privately, but said that “it’s just a shame that it took so damn long, honestly.”

The WNBA and Mercury have kept the updates of Griner’s travel arrangements confidential since the incident, which ESPN reported is due to “safety reasons.”

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