Will WNBA players continue to play overseas amidst Brittney Griner’s Russia imprisonment?
A New York Times article broke down why some WNBA players can’t afford not to play overseas. On average, WNBA players’ maximum annual base salary is $228,094. However, only three players earned that much this year, according to Spotrac. Brittney’s salary is under the maximum, the article reports.
The minimum salary is approximately $60,000. The article also states, “each team has a salary cap of about $1.4 million to fill 12 roster spots. The league offers bonuses for winning awards like [the] defensive player of the year, and also helps players find internships or marketing deals during the off-season.”
WNBA players can make more than $1 million when they play overseas. Before Brittney’s nine-year sentence, she was in Russia playing there for her off-season, along with her Phoenix Mercury teammate, Jonquel Jones, and others. Jonquel told the publication spoke on Brittney’s situation and her plans to play abroad. She said,
“Her not being with us, her not being with her team and the WNBA, her family not being able to see her. Just her being over there and understanding that it could have easily been somebody else on our team and just kind of feeling the weight of that.” Jonquel continued, “When you’re so close to that person, it’s a little bit different.”
Jonquel told the outlet she’s headed to Turkey to play in the off-season. She said, “What would make me feel comfortable about going back to Russia? BG being home, first and foremost. USA and Russia relations being better. The war in Ukraine being over with.”
A full list of players going overseas isn’t available as of yet, the article reports. They will head to places like Italy, Israel, Spain, and France.
Since February 17, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney has been detained in Russia. Russian authorities claimed they found vape cartridges while searching her luggage at a Moscow airport. Brittney admitted she mistakenly packed the canisters in her luggage. Her defense argued she was prescribed cannabis for pain. On August 4, she was found guilty of drug charges and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
On August 15, Brittney’s defense team filed an appeal, arguing that her sentence was excessive. The US government deemed Brittney “wrongfully detained” and offered a prison swap in exchange for her release. NPR reports, “Washington has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the ‘Merchant of Death.’
Earlier this month, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks were in motion. Hopefully, Brittney will return soon! We’ll keep you updated.