Brittney Griner, the WNBA player who protested the national anthem, got locked up in Russia for a drug smuggling offense, and was then freed and welcomed back by President Joe Biden, returned to playing for the WNBA the other night. Despite being in Los Angeles, a city of millions, the game didn’t sell out, as Griner’s coach got angry about in an interview.
Watch that here:
After Brittney Griner played in her first WNBA game last night since coming home from prison in Russia, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard was angry Los Angeles didn’t sellout the arena for her return:
“How was it not a sellout??”pic.twitter.com/b2GgnsjlIN
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 21, 2023
For reference, ESPN reported that 10,396 fans showed up to watch the game. That’s a little under double the average attendance, ~5,600 of a WNBA game, but far under the average NBA attendance of ~18,000 fans a game.
Further, Griner’s team lost, with the Sparks beating the Mercury 94-71. Speaking about the game afterwards, Griner said, “Not good enough — didn’t get the W. Whatever I did out there, it was nice to be back. The love from the fans when I came out was amazing. I definitely felt that. I mean, I felt it when I was over there.”
Despite the stadium being far from sold out, there was one noteworthy person there: VP Kamala Harris. Reporting on her appearance, Inside the Games reported:
“Thank you for all that you did in supporting Brittney,” the vice-president told the Mercury players.
“I know that was rough and so difficult.”
Harris also spoke about how “team is family” and how important it was for Griner that they kept “her story alive” while she was in Russia.
Los Angeles player and WNBA Players Union Executive Committee president Nneka Ogwumike presented Harris with a Sparks jersey and thanked her.
“Tonight is a game, but we’re also celebrating the return of one of our own, and what the Biden administration did to make that happen is really important,” Ogwumike said.
“We know that wasn’t easy.
“But we want to say thank you so much for us to be able to play against BG tonight.”
So with the Vice President and a player responsible for a weeks-long news cycle that became a ancillary battle of the culture war, why were so few people watching the game? Why wasn’t it sold out like many other sports games? Because not that many people watch the WNBA, as comedian Bill Burr joked about, saying:
“(The WNBA) have been playing in front of 300 to 400 people a night for a quarter of a century,” said Burr in a now viral rant that he made in July. “Not to mention, it’s a male-subsidized league!”
“We gave you a league, none of you showed up! Where are all the feminists? That place should be packed with feminists! Faces painted, wearin’ their jerseys. Goin’ nuts! Like the guys do. None of you went to the games. None of you. You failed them. Not me. Women failed the WNBA. Ladies, name your top five WNBA players of all time. Name the WNBA team in your city. You can’t do it. You don’t give a (bleep) about them. They play night in and night out in front of nobody, and it’s a tragedy.”
“The Real Housewives shows? They’re makin’ money hand over fist. Cause that’s what women are watchin’.”
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