WNBA players skip Russia amid Brittney Griner woes, Ukraine war

Brittney Griner’s extremely publicized authorized woes in Russia and the nation’s invasion of Ukraine have the highest WNBA players opting to take their skills elsewhere this offseason.

For the previous few a long time, Russia has been the popular offseason vacation spot for WNBA players to compete due to the excessive salaries that may exceed $1 million and the sources and facilities groups provided them.

That all has come to an abrupt finish.

“Honestly my time in Russia has been fantastic, however particularly with BG nonetheless wrongfully detained there, no one’s going to go there till she’s residence,” mentioned Breanna Stewart, a Griner teammate on the Russian crew that paid the duo hundreds of thousands. “I feel that, you already know, now, folks wish to go abroad and if the cash will not be a lot completely different, they wish to be in a greater place,”

Griner was arrested in February, then detained and later convicted on drug possession costs amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Griner was sentenced final month to 9 years in jail.

Now, Stewart and different WNBA All-Stars, together with Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot — who’ve additionally made hundreds of thousands of {dollars} enjoying in Russia — are going elsewhere this winter. All three performed for Yekaterinburg, the identical Russian crew as Griner. That membership received 5 EuroLeague titles previously eight seasons and has been dominant for almost 20 years with former greats DeLisha Milton Jones and Diana Taurasi enjoying there.

Nearly a dozen WNBA players competed in Russia final winter and none of them are heading again this 12 months.

Breanna Stewart will earn a decrease wage in Turkey than when she competed in Russia.
Getty Images

After the World Cup match, Stewart goes to Turkey to play for Fenerbahçe. Top players could make a couple of hundred thousand {dollars} enjoying in Turkey, a lot lower than their Russian salaries. Playing in Turkey additionally permits Stewart to be nearer to her spouse’s household in Spain.

“You wish to have a greater life-style, a greater off-the-court expertise, and simply proceed to understand different international locations,” Stewart mentioned.

Like Stewart, Vandersloot additionally is not headed again to Russia, selecting to play in Hungary the place she obtained citizenship in 2016.

“I’m in Hungary. I assumed it will be particular since I have never performed there since I acquired the citizenship,” Vandersloot mentioned.

Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky dribbles against the Connecticut Sun during the second half in Game Five of the 2022 WNBA Playoffs semifinals at Wintrust Arena on Sept.  8, 2022 in Chicago.
Courtney Vandersloot will play in Hungary whereas points involving Brittney Griner proceed to develop.
Getty Images

The 33-year-old guard mentioned loads must change earlier than she’d ever think about going again to Russia to play though she has many fond recollections of the Russian folks.

“The factor about it’s, we have been handled so nicely by our membership and made such robust relationships with these folks, I’d by no means shut the door on that,” she mentioned. “The entire scenario with BG makes it actually onerous to suppose that it is protected for anybody to return there proper now.”

Jones shall be becoming a member of Stewart in Turkey, enjoying for Mersin. The 6-foot-6 Jones mentioned she would think about going again to Russia if issues change politically and Griner was again within the US

The Griner scenario can be weighing closely on the minds of younger WNBA players.

Rhyne Howard, the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is enjoying in Italy this winter — her first abroad expertise. She mentioned she was cautious when deciding the place she needed to play.

“Everyone’s going to be a bit cautious seeing as this example is going on,” she mentioned.

It’s not simply the American players who’re now not going to Russia. Chicago Sky ahead Emma Meesseman, who stars for the Belgium nationwide crew, had performed in Russia with Stewart, Jones and Vandersloot. She can be headed to Turkey this offseason.

The WNBA has additionally been attempting to make staying residence within the offseason a greater possibility for players. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned on the WNBA Finals that prime players might make as much as $700,000 this 12 months between base wage, advertising agreements and award bonuses. While solely a choose few players might attain that quantity, roughly a dozen have determined to take league advertising agreements this offseason.

Leave a Comment