The WNBA suspended Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson on Friday for their parts in an April domestic violence incident. Griner and Johnson, who were married last Friday, will miss seven games next season, or roughly one-fifth of the league’s regular-season schedule.
Griner was the No. 1 pick for the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 draft and is one of the league’s biggest stars, while Johnson is a two-time WNBA All-Star in her own right. The suspensions mark the longest in league history, according to Yahoo, surpassing the six-game suspension then-Detroit Shock player Kara Braxton received in 2009 for a second DUI 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,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said in a statement. “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.”
Last month Griner pled guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and was mandated to undergo a 26-week domestic violence course. The misdemeanor charges of assault and disorderly conduct against Johnson are still pending, but as part of their punishment by the league, both players will be required to undergo individual counseling sessions.
The charges stemmed from an April incident that, according to the league, “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.”
Professional athletes have been under increased scrutiny in domestic violence cases since last year when former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on video assaulting his then-fiancée and the NFL botched the response to the charges.
After the Rice case, the NBA revisited its polices regarding domestic violence cases and issued a 24-game suspension to Charlotte Hornets forward Jeff Taylor in November, marking the league’s first such punishment for domestic violence since Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) was suspended in 2007.
Richie said she consulted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with a number of domestic violence experts, to reach her decision about Griner’s and Johnson’s suspensions. The NBA has historically waited for the courts to adjudicate domestic violence cases before issuing its own punishments, which seems to be one difference between its handling of the subject and the WNBA’s handling of Johnson.
As documented last month by the Washington Post, the case of Griner and Johnson was not the first domestic violence accusation against professional women’s basketball players, though it was the most high-profile. In 2012 former Detroit Shock player and WNBA All-Star Deanna “Tweety” Nolan was arrested for allegedly assaulting her wife, and in 2013 former All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw pleaded guilty to assaulting girlfriend and fellow WNBA player Jennifer Lacy. Both of these incidents happened after the players charged were out of the league, however.
During Griner and Johnson’s wedding ceremony last week, Johnson attempted to make light of the incident during the vows, saying, “I promise to be the Whitney to your Bobby, the Bonnie to your Clyde, the Ike to your Tina.”