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Brittney Griner is confronted by a right-wing media 'provocateur' at airport

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is seen at a news conference on Wednesday after the team's game against the Dallas Wings, in Arlington, Texas.
Tony Gutierrez
/
AP
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is seen at a news conference on Wednesday after the team's game against the Dallas Wings, in Arlington, Texas.

Brittney Griner and her Phoenix Mercury teammates were confronted by a right-wing YouTube personality in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday.

Alex Stein, host of conservative network Blaze Media's Prime Time with Alex Stein, posted about his encounter with the star basketball center on Twitter.

Stein, a Dallas native and self-described troll who's known for his caustic confrontations with politicians, wrote: "I just met my favorite WNBA player. Video coming soon."

He later also posted a short clip showing him yelling at Griner as she walked through the airport, teasing a longer version of the video that he plans to release on Sunday morning.

"Do you still wanna boycott America, Brittney?" Stein says in the clip, as a man tells him repeatedly to stop and attempts to distance him from the group.

Stein's Prime Time show, which launched in February, has featured inflammatory right-wing figures as guests including Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gavin McInnes.

In December, Griner returned to the U.S. after she was released from Russian custody as part of a high-profile prisoner swap.

The WNBA released a statement about the Dallas airport incident, saying, "The safety of Brittney Griner and all WNBA players is our top priority."

"As we gather additional information about today's incident at the Dallas Airport, it has come to our attention that this was orchestrated by a social media figure and provocateur," the WNBA said. "His actions were inappropriate and unfortunate."

"Prior to the season, the WNBA worked together with the Phoenix Mercury and BG's team to ensure her safety during her travel, which included charter flights for WNBA games and assigned security personnel with her at all times. We remain steadfastly committed to the highest standards of security for players."

At the time of the confrontation, the Mercury players were en route to Indianapolis via commercial flight, according to a spokesperson from Griner's talent agency. It's unclear why Griner was not scheduled to fly charter. The Mercury is set to play the Indiana Fever on Sunday.

The Mercury said in a statement that it was reviewing the incident and will work with the WNBA on next steps.

"We are committed to our support of BG and advocating for all American hostages abroad. We will continue our support of marginalized communities and fighting the kind of hate that targeted us today," the team said.

Griner's teammate Brianna Turner said on Twitter that the team members "nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about" during the incident. "We demand better," she said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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