By Dorothy J. Gentry
Texas Metro News
Edited by Valerie Hill, (682) 597-6202
Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner is no longer traveling with the team on its next two road trips. She will instead focus on her mental wellness.
In a statement, the team said the WNBA center “will not travel with the team on its upcoming two-game road trip… to focus on her mental health.”
“The Mercury fully supports Brittney and we will continue to work together on a timeline for her return,” the statement read.
Griner returned to playing in the league after serving 10 months in a Russian prison on a drug smuggling conviction that supporters said was politically motivated.
Throughout the season, fans have celebrated Griner’s return, both at Mercury home games and as she has played at venues across the league. Some venues sold out when she came to town.
Griner was named to her ninth All-Star game and participated in the weekend’s festivities and game earlier this month.
Her return to the league has not been without controversy, however.
In June, Griner and her teammates were heckled at D/FW International Airport where they were scheduled to fly out after playing a pair of games against the Dallas Wings.
Griner and the team were confronted by a Blaze Media YouTube personality in D/FW Airport. Per reports, Alex Stein, a Dallas native who has gained some online following for confronting politicians, Tweeted a photograph and the text “I just met my favorite WNBA player. Video coming soon.” Stein then posted a brief clip of him yelling at Griner as she walked through the airport.
Police responded to a call regarding the disturbance,but filed no charges.
The WNBA does not permit its teams to fly charter flights all the time, citing financial reasons.
Prior to this season’s start, the league expanded its limited charter policy to include all of the postseason and longer flights for select back-to-back regular season games and during the finals.
The Mercury has been granted permission to make any travel arrangements, including charter flights it felt were necessary for Griner’s safety.
The Mercury will announce when Griner will return.