Brittney Griner’s travel plans for the 2023 WNBA season lasted all of two road trips.
Days after the Phoenix Mercury star was harassed over her experience in a Russian prison while walking through a public terminal at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, ESPN reports her team will have her fly charter for the rest of the season.
Allowing teams to fly via private plans has been contentious topic between the WNBA and its players for years, with the league forbidding teams from booking them to avoid the millions of dollars in costs. Mercury owner Mat Ishbia is one of the owners to advocate for charter flights.
Griner is obviously a special case after becoming a highly controversial political figure due to her imprisonment, and her harassment last weekend revived concerns about her safety while flying commercial.
It’s becoming increasingly unclear why exactly Griner was flying commercial at all in Dallas. The WNBA said it had worked with the Mercury to create a plan for Griner that included charter flights and security personnel before the season, but ESPN reports the league pre-approved only two charter flights for her all year. There was reportedly a “hybrid plan” in place for Griner that would have had the WNBA approve additional charter flights on the condition that Griner, and only Griner, be allowed to use them. When charter flights weren’t available, Griner was to fly first class on commercial trips.
The league reportedly denied limiting Griner’s ability to fly charter, though, claiming it gave the Mercury the ability to fly Griner privately throughout the season.
Wherever the blame game falls, the end result was Griner being asked disgusting questions by a YouTuber in the Dallas concourse before he was pushed away by security.
The WNBA is allowing teams to fly charter this season, sort of
The latest in the Griner situation coincides with the league making a somewhat major change in how it allows teams to travel.
The league is reportedly allowing teams to use a “hop-on” charter company called JSX that allows customers to book seats on smaller planers with many of the accoutrements of a private plane. The company’s catalogue of flights is limited, though, and doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of a team that flies across the country during the course of the season.
JSX does offer the ability to create custom flights at a much higher price, which the WNBA forbade teams from doing. That might be what’s changing as the league tries to avoid another ugly scene with Griner.