The WNBA has issued suspensions to five players following a fight during Saturday’s game between the Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury, with Phoenix center Brittney Griner receiving a three-game ban.
It was Brittney Griner bobblehead night in Phoenix, and the 6-foot-9 star had 13 points in the game, including her 12th dunk of the season, when the fight broke out.
Dallas forwards Kristine Anigwe and Kayla Thornton were also suspended two games for their roles in the brawl, while Mercury guard Diana Taurasi and Wings forward Kaela Davis will each have to sit out one game and pay a $500 fine.
Six Players Ejected Following Fight
Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner will also pay a $500 fine for her role in escalating the conflict.
The fight began with just over six minutes to go in the game and Phoenix leading. As Allisha Gray of the Wings hit a three-pointer to cut the Mercury lead to three, 71-68, Griner and Anigwe got tangled up while fighting for position over a potential rebound.
That led to punches being thrown between the two, after which Griner chased Anigwe down the court. Several players looked to restrain Griner, who was eventually held up by an official around midcourt. Griner, Brian January, and Taurasi were all ejected, with Taurasi getting tossed despite being inactive for the game after she left the bench area.
“Today I went on the court to make sure my teammate didn’t get jumped,” Taurasi told reporters afterwards. “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.”
Anigwe, Thornton and Davis were all ejected for Dallas as well.
Dallas would go on to win the game, 80-77.
Griner: Suspension Could Impact WNBA Future
The suspensions themselves were expected, as the WNBA has a rule mandating a minimum one-game ban for any player who throws a punch or leaves the bench area during an incident. But Griner took issue with the fact that she received the longest suspension of any player involved.
“Across the board, it should have been three for everybody,” Griner told reporters on Tuesday, referring specifically to Anigwe and Thorton, who received only two-game suspensions. “I’ll take my punishment like a woman, and hey, I’m not going to argue mine. But it should have been three across the board.”
On Monday, Griner had made comments to Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic suggesting that how the WNBA dealt with the incident could impact her future in the league. Like many WNBA stars, Griner plays overseas in the offseason, and the money she makes with her Russian team dwarfs the approximately $115,000 she will earn this year in the WNBA.
After getting the word on the suspension, she reiterated her feelings on the subject.
“Does it impact my career in the WNBA? Yes, it does,” Griner told reporters. “Not right now, this second. But how long I go, yeah, it’s definitely going to affect it. I mean, I love playing for the Mercury; that’s the only reason I’m playing here right now.”
The Mercury currently sit fifth of six teams in the Western Conference standings with an 11-12 record. Currently, that would get Phoenix into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, as they sit three games ahead of the Indiana Fever for the final postseason position.
Despite that uninspiring record, however, FanDuel Sportsbook still lists the Mercury as the fifth choice to win the WNBA Championship, giving Phoenix 13/1 odds. The Washington Mystics (+210) are the title favorites, ahead of the Las Vegas Aces (+260) and the Connecticut Sun (+300).