INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JUNE 11: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury after the game against the Indiana Fever on June 11, 2023 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE | Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

As if Brittney Griner hasn’t endured enough already, now she’s become a target for a right wing social media hack trolling for views.

While traveling with her Phoenix Mercury teammates this past Saturday morning at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Griner was accosted by a man who approached her and began screaming abuse.

Affiliated with Glenn Beck-founded website The Blaze, Alex Stein filmed Griner with his phone while roaring vituperation about “the Merchant of Death,” a reference to the prisoner swap involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout that resulted in her release after a harrowing 10-month incarceration in a Russian penal colony.

Eventually, the man presented enough of a threat that police were called to the scene and had to tackle him before leading him away. In their report about the incident, CNN referred to the man as “a social media ‘provocateur.’”

That seems more like a personality trait that explains why everyone around you changes cars whenever you board a train.

But it also explains why this man was harassing Griner. It was an attempt to raise his profile and draw traffic to The Blaze from that particular corner of the social media sphere which rewards people for acting like a walking 4chan thread.

In the wake of the incident, Mercury forward Briana Turner posted a tweet describing the confrontation.

“Player safety while traveling should be at the forefront,” she wrote, “People following with cameras saying wild remarks is never acceptable. Excessive harassment. Our team nervously huddled in a corner unsure how to move about. We demand better.”

According to a report from The Athletic’s Ben Pickman, Griner and the Mercury were flying on a commercial airline that morning. This despite the fact that prior to the beginning of the 2023 season, the WNBA had promised Griner “to ensure her safety during her travel, which included charter flights for WNBA games and assigned security personnel with her at all times.”

That vow apparently did not apply to every road trip.

In the wake of this incident, the WNBA Players Association released a statement:

“What BG and all of her PHX teammates experienced today was a calculated confrontation that left them feeling very unsafe. Everyone who was paying attention knew this would happen. We could have and should have been more proactive.

“Allowing teams to fly charter is ONLY about player health and safety and until the league and teams take this issue seriously, situations like this will continue to occur.”

Following the next day’s game, Mercury Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard vowed that the team “will be making adjustments that maybe should have happened before.”

Griner and the Mercury stand in solidarity before Sunday’s game.

Charter flights have long been a source of conflict between the WNBA and its players. Currently, the league only provides charter flights for teams during the playoffs and when they schedule back-to-back games in the regular season.

Players have long advocated for charter flights for all games.

“I think what charter flights represent in the world of sports is it gives you a little bit of validation,” Sue Bird said in 2022. “It’s saying your league is so successful, it has the finances to charter flights, which is incredibly expensive.”

Yet to date, only one WNBA team has provided charter flights consistently. This occurred when the New York Liberty adopted them in secret over the latter half of the 2021 season. After the WNBA discovered this, the league fined the Liberty $500,000.

As Pickman wrote, the WNBA has insisted that its teams do not provide charter flights in order “to maintain competitive balance,” implying that some of its owners are unwilling to spend that kind of money for their players’ benefit.

Thanks to that policy, Griner and her teammates were subjected to an ill-intentioned raving man invading their privacy and presenting the feeling of a genuine threat while they were waiting for a commercial flight.

Because of this, Griner had to suffer through reliving her trauma while this man tried to use it to elevate himself and earn clicks for his website.

Or to put this in the kind of language the league focuses on: Forcing one star player and one team to endure this kind of chaos is the very definition of “competitive imbalance.”