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WNBA Coach Slams L.A. Fans After Arena Is Only Half-Full For Brittney Griner's Return Game

Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard wasn't impressed with the turnout for Griner's return to the WNBA after being jailed in Russia.

Brittney Griner
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

WNBA star Brittney Griner made her return to the court for her first regular-season game since her 10-month detainment in Russia.

On Friday, the Phoenix Mercury center played her long-awaited season opener in an away game against Los Angeles Sparks.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 after Russian officials alleged her luggage contained vape cartridges with traces of cannabis oil. After spending 10 months in Russian custody, she was released as part of a high-profile prisoner swap.

The celebratory moment of Griner's return to the court brought out some big names, too.

Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed Griner at LA's Arena.

And Nike put up a massive billboard to commemorate the event.

While Griner's return to the game brought 10,396 fans to the venue - more than last year's average of around 5,700 - the arena was still barely at half capacity.

And the team's head coach Vanessa Nygaard was not impressed.

After Phoenix's 94-71 loss to LA, Nygaard said:

“I mean, it was great. But like honestly, c’mon LA. We didn’t sell out the arena for BG?"
"Like, I expected more, you know, to be honest. Right, it was great, it was loud."
"But how was it not a sellout? How was it not a sellout?”

You can watch below.

Some on social media noted both the NHL and NBA are in the playoffs, now.

The LA Lakers—until their loss—were using the same arena for their post-season run, likely resulting in locals and fans opting for those tickets instead.

Others also expressed even though the arena wasn't sold out, they should be excited the night's attendance far surpassed the venue's average.

And some claimed they were unaware of both the game and Griner's return.

Shining a spotlight on promotion, advertising, air time, etc... of men's versus women's sports.

In Griner's first home game this season—her first since October 2021—14,040 were in attendance to watch Mercury play against Chicago.

Griner got quite the welcome.

Welcome home, Brittney.