NEW YORK — WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson were suspended seven games each Friday for their domestic violence arrest last month — the league's longest ban in its 19-year history.
WNBA President Laurel Richie said the league "takes all acts of violence extremely seriously" in handing down a suspension that represents nearly one-fifth of the 34-game regular season. Richie called the players' actions "unacceptable."
"Brittney and Glory's conduct is detrimental to the best interests of the WNBA and violates applicable law," Richie said in a statement. "We also understand that people make mistakes, and that education and training are as important as imposing discipline."
Griner plays for the defending champion Phoenix Mercury and Johnson for the Tulsa Shock. The penalties come with both teams to open camp Sunday and the league season to begin June 5.
The WNBA said the two All-Stars — who got married last week in Phoenix — must undergo individual counseling. If either fails to comply with that condition or those by the court, the league reserves the right to revisit the case.
"It is our strong belief that violence has absolutely no place in society, in sports or in this league," Richie said. "As president, it is my responsibility to protect the league and uphold its values."
The two All-Stars were arrested April 22 on suspicion of assault after they fought in a home they recently bought. Griner pled guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and entered a diversion program. The assault charge was dismissed. She must attend 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. All charges will be dismissed if she completes counseling. Johnson's case was transferred to county court and is still pending.
The league spent the last few weeks investigating. The WNBA said Johnson pushed Griner in the shoulder and she responded by pushing her in the back of the neck. The confrontation escalated to include wrestling, punches, and the throwing and swinging of objects. The 6-foot-8 Griner received a bite wound on her finger and scratches on her wrist; the 6-4 Johnson received a scratch above her lip and was diagnosed with a concussion.
The Mercury open the season June 5 against San Antonio. If she doesn't appeal, Griner will be eligible to return against Minnesota on June 27. The Mercury play Johnson's Shock two games later on July 2. Johnson's first game back would be June 26 against New York.
"We appreciate the league's due diligence in investigating and making a decision in this matter," Shock President Steve Swetoha in a statement. "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."
The longest suspension until now had been for six games, given to Kara Braxton in 2009 after her second DUI.
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