Brittney Griner’s wrongful detention and conviction in what the U.S. State Department called a “sham trial” is now causing other WNBA players to rethink playing in Russia. For decades, during the WNBA offseason players have gone to Russia to play and supplement their income. Of the 12 WNBA players who played for Russian teams last year, however, not a single one of them will this season.
There were three other WNBA stars on the roster of Griner’s Russian team. They won five EuroLeague titles in the past eight seasons, but now those teammates will instead play for other EuroLeague clubs.
Turkey is one of the top alternatives.
It is not just American WNBA players not returning to Russia either. Belgium-born Emma Meesseman is also opting to take her talents elsewhere. The decision by these players to shun Russia is no doubt based on their own safety. There are reports of multiple Americans being inappropriately held in Russia as Moscow continues to flex its powers internationally.
Be that as it may, shunning Russia comes at a great personal cost for these women. WNBA stars can earn four times as much playing in Russia than what they earn in the U.S., where the best players can make up to 700 thousand dollars a year in base salary, bonuses and marketing agreements.
Compare that to the top players in the NBA, who have a base salary over $40 million a year.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league is trying to make staying home in the offseason a better option for players.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.