Brittany Griner Takes Leave Of Absence To Focus On Mental Health

Phoenix Mercury All-Star center Brittney Griner will not travel with the team on their two-game road trip against the Chicago Sky and Indiana Fever. The Phoenix Mercury issued a statement explaining Griner’s absence, according to ESPN. “The Mercury fully support Brittney and we will continue to work together on a timeline for her return,” Griner has been the lone bright spot on an otherwise underwhelming season for the Mercury as she has averaged 18.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. 

Griner is playing in her first season since being released from a Russian prison after allegedly transporting cannabis oil into the country. Griner was detained for 300 days and had been sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony but was released during a high-profile prisoner exchange. Griner and notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout were part of a deal negotiated between the American and Russian governments, a deal that drew the ire of both of America’s major political parties. Griner was debriefed at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio upon her return to the United States.

As the statement indicates, Griner’s leave does not have a defined return date. Griner had to deal with harassment from Alex Stein, a conservative media personality, at the Dallas Fort Worth airport earlier this season. Griner later called the incident “rock bottom” for the WNBA’s travel policy and the league’s players union released a statement calling for the league to reconsider chartered flights for every team so players could avoid situations like the one Griner and the Mercury were forced into. The statement reads, in part: “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.”

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