WNBA president: Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson suspended for seven regular-season games for domestic violence incident

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The WNBA issued a ruling today regarding the domestic violence incident between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson last month. Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Johnson of the Tulsa Shock were arrested at their home in Goodyear, Ariz., on April 22, 2015, on identical misdemeanor charges of assault and disorderly conduct just a two and a half weeks before they were married. The two exchanged vows last weekend.

League president Laurel J. Richie issued the following statement regarding the incident:

The WNBA takes all acts of violence extremely seriously.  It is our strong belief that violence has absolutely no place in society, in sports or in this league.

As president, it is my responsibility to protect the league and uphold its values.  Our athletes represent the WNBA, and they all must abide by the league’s standards of conduct.  In this case, Brittney and Glory failed to do so, and that is unacceptable. 

The WNBA immediately initiated its own investigation into the incident.  It was extremely important for us to review the events thoroughly and carefully.  Over the course of three weeks, the league conducted interviews with both players and three witnesses present for much of the altercation, and reviewed the police report, medical records, photos and other materials in order to determine the facts.  Based on the WNBA’s investigation, the following summary of facts is largely undisputed. 

Brittney and Glory were involved in a physical altercation with each other at their home.  It began when Glory pushed Brittney in the shoulder and Brittney pushed Glory in the back of the neck.  The confrontation escalated to include wrestling, punches, and the throwing and swinging of various objects.  Brittney received a bite wound on her finger and scratches on her wrist, and Glory received a scratch above her lip and was diagnosed with a concussion.

On April 28, Brittney pleaded guilty in Goodyear City Court to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and entered a diversion program.  The assault charge was dismissed.  Brittney is required to complete a 26-week domestic violence course, and if she successfully completes the course (and meets other standard conditions), the disorderly conduct charge will be dismissed.  Glory’s case was transferred to county court and is still pending.

ln the course of the WNBA’s review of the incident, I received guidance from a group of domestic violence experts: Dr. Valli Kalei Kanuha, Professor of Sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, a national consultant and trainer on gender violence, including same-sex partner violence; Linda Fairstein, former Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office; and Kalimah Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of SASHA Center, a Detroit-based healing and awareness center focusing on sexual assault.   I also consulted with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and an internal group that focuses on education and counseling of players, including Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s President for Social Responsibility & Player Programs, and Renee Brown, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations.   

With consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this matter, we are suspending Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson each without pay for a period of seven regular-season games.  Brittney and Glory’s conduct is detrimental to the best interests of the WNBA and violates applicable law.   We also understand that people make mistakes, and that education and training are as important as imposing discipline.  Accordingly, each player will be required to attend individual counseling sessions with a counselor satisfactory to the WNBA.  If either player fails to comply with this condition or any of the conditions imposed by the court, we reserve the right to revisit this matter.

The WNBA will continue to focus intently on the issue of domestic violence.  Along with our partners in the Players Association, we will continue to educate our players so that they are equipped with the appropriate tools and resources and provided with necessary support systems.  As such, we will be conducting education sessions with all WNBA players and team personnel throughout the season focused on domestic violence and related issues. We recognize that our league has an obligation and an opportunity to set an example for people around the world, and we will continue doing everything we can to ensure that situations such as this do not happen again. 

Tulsa Shock president Steve Swetoha:

“We appreciate the league’s due diligence in investigating and making a decision in this matter. As an organization we strongly agree with President Richie’s statement that there is no place for violence in our league, in our communities, or in society. We will continue to care for Glory’s well-being and look forward to her being in camp with our team.”

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