Brittney Griner was suspended three games for a fight that broke out Friday night in Phoenix during a game between the Mercury and the Dallas Wings.
PHOENIX — Brittney Griner doesn’t understand why she, the retaliator who responded to a flailing swing by rookie Kristine Anigwe in the fourth quarter Saturday night, received a three-game suspension from the WNBA no one else involved, including Anigwe, got more than two.
The league on Tuesday handed down punishments to six players involved in the on-court altercation, with Griner earning the brunt of the penalty. Anigwe and her teammate Kayla Thornton, who flew across the court to throw herself into the dust-up, each received a two-game suspension. Kaela Davis and Diana Taurasi, both sitting on the bench when the fight broke out, were suspended one game for leaving the bench. Davis will serve her suspension after Dallas can put together an active roster of more than seven players, while Taurasi will serve hers when she returns from back surgery.
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Griner feels this is an escalation of aggressiveness allowed by WNBA officials who adjudicate physicality differently game to game.
“I can’t pursue someone like that, (but) that’s why I don’t understand why it’s not three across the board,” Griner said after practice Tuesday. “There was more pursuing from the other side of the court, the corner baseline, but again, what can I do? Nothing but sit here, support my team.”
The seventh-year center, a fringe MVP contender this season, will return to the active roster next Tuesday when the Mercury play the Aces in Las Vegas. She will not appeal her suspension.
Said Griner: “There’s always consequences to actions. What I did, I already (knew) I was going to get some time for that.
“I apologize to all the fans, kids, everybody that was there. It was turning out to be such a great night. I dunked once, won some money for a fan, had over 600 shoes brought in for Heart & Sole, it was turning out to be a real good night and it definitely didn’t turn out that way at the end.”
Yet she returned to the idea that the initiator of the fight, Anigwe, should have been punished the same, as with Thornton, who Griner believes ratcheted the problem up another level by charging down the court as well.
“I think that would have been honestly fair,” she said. “I would have been happy today with that. I’m not happy today, and it’s not because of my suspension, I take ownership of mine, there’s no place for that in sports.”
Earlier this week, Griner told azcentral sports that the decision handed down by the league would affect her vision for her own future in the WNBA. She elaborated Tuesday.
The fans, her teammates, and the Phoenix front office are the only thing keeping her in place, she said.
“I’m not playing because I love the WNBA. I’m not playing for them. From officiating to the pay, to this year all the techs and flagrants … We already don’t get paid, now you wanna give me all these techs throughout the season, flagrants, suspensions and all that, I’m basically playing for free, and I don’t love the W that much. I’m sorry, I don’t.
“I love the Phoenix Mercury, and that’s the only reason that I’m here.”
Griner has long dealt with questions about how best to officiate her game because of her size advantage at 6-9. She understands opponents will play her physically, as Anigwe did, but felt a line was crossed not only Saturday but earlier in the season in two matchups with Anigwe when the rookie still played in Connecticut. Griner earned a flagrant foul call in the second quarter on Aug. 1 when the Sun hosted the Mercury.
The referees should be more consistent and clear with what they will and will not allow, Griner said.
Her coach, Sandy Brondello, agreed: “If if it was three games, I thought the other two (Thornton and Anigwe) should have gotten three games as well. That’s what I think. I don’t think BG’s been protected all season long, she’s had a fantastic season but just call what you see. The physicality has been kind of out of hand this year.”
Will Griner retire or quit basketball because of the WNBA’s decision? No. She will return for the final eight games of the Mercury’s playoff push and reiterated the team’s desire to win a championship. Rookie Brianna Turner will start in her place against Jonquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday night. The future is suddenly in doubt however after Griner’s comments this week.
“They better hope everybody plays forever and everybody stays in the jobs that they’re in right now because it would be a whole different story anywhere else. I’d be out. Gone.”
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