Brittney Griner was one of five W.N.B.A. players suspended Tuesday for their roles in a fight during a game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Dallas Wings on Saturday.
Griner, a six-time All-Star center with the Mercury, received the longest suspension — three games. She later suggested to reporters that she was being targeted unfairly by referees and opposing players because of her size and her prominence as one of the league’s best-known players.
The fight began with more than six minutes left in Saturday’s game in Phoenix, as 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. Both players squared up as their fight moved toward the Phoenix bench.
As Anigwe retreated down the sideline, Griner gave chase, swinging her fists, even as she was restrained first by a teammate and then by an official. Multiple players from both teams, including some who were not in the game at the time, became involved in a swarm of pushing and shoving at the scorer’s table.
The Wings’ Anigwe and Kayla Thornton were 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 an injury.
All five of those players, plus Briann January of the Mercury, were ejected from the game. The Wings, who trailed by 6 points at the time of the fight, went on to win, 80-77.
Griner did not speak with reporters 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.
Victor Mather covers every sport, no matter how small.
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