Brittney Griner and four other W.N.B.A. players were suspended Tuesday for their roles in a fight at a game on Saturday between the Phoenix Mercury and the Dallas Wings.
Griner, a six-time All-Star center with the Mercury who is one of the league’s best players, received the longest suspension — three games. With more than six minutes left in Saturday’s game in Phoenix, Griner tangled with Dallas’s Kristine Anigwe for a rebound. Anigwe appeared to yank on Griner’s arm and then swing a hand at Griner’s head.
As Anigwe retreated down the court, Griner gave chase, swinging her fists, even as she was restrained. Multiple players from both teams, even some who were not in the game at the time, became involved in a swarm of pushing and shoving.
The Wings’ Anigwe and Kayla Thornton have been suspended for two games. The league, in announcing the punishment, said Griner’s penalty was for “throwing punches, escalating the incident, and pushing Thornton’s face with an open hand.”
Anigwe was suspended “for instigating the initial altercation and for taking an openhanded swing at Griner,” the league said. Thornton’s suspension was for “escalating the altercation.”
Diana Taurasi of the Mercury and Kaela Davis of the Wings got one game each for leaving the bench area. Taurasi was not playing in the game because of injury.
All five of those players, plus Briann January of the Mercury, were ejected from the game after the incident. The Wings went on to win, 80-77.
Griner did not speak after the game but told The Arizona Republic on Monday that she was frustrated with the league. “I’m not doing it for the money because we don’t make enough, and they want to fine me for every little thing,” Griner said. “I’m getting techs for protecting myself in games and flagrants because they always only see me.” At 6-foot-9, Griner stands out on any court.
Her teammate Taurasi told The Republic: “I went on the court to make sure my teammate didn’t get jumped. She got punched in the face and then someone ran on her back and threw punches at her face. I would do that 100 times out of 100 times.”
“I mean, B.G. pretty much gets beat up every single game,” Taurasi told The Athletic. “The minute she steps on the floor, she basically gets physically abused, and a person can just take so much.”
Griner was suspended for seven games in 2015 after she and her wife at the time, Glory Johnson, fought at their house. Griner agreed to complete six months of domestic violence counseling. Johnson, also a W.N.B.A. player, was suspended for seven games as well.
The Mercury and the Wings are both struggling this year, sitting in fifth and sixth in the six-team Western Division.