Top WNBA Players Opt Out Of Playing In Russia Amid Brittney Griner’s Prison Sentence

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WNBA players have Brittney Griner’s back. 

As reported by news sources, top athletes from the women’s national basketball association are opting out of playing in Russia during their off-season. 

Breanna Stewart, a BG teammate on the Russian team that “paid the duo millions,” NY Post reports, said she’s not going to Russia until Brittney is free. Breanna said, 

“Honestly, my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still wrongfully detained there, nobody’s going to go there until she’s home.” She continued, 

“I think that you know, now, people want to go overseas, and if the money is not much different, they want to be in a better place.” Breonna plans on playing in Turkey, even though she’ll make a few hundred thousand, much less than she would in Russia. 

The outlet also points out, “nearly a dozen WNBA players competed in Russia last winter, and none of them are heading back this year.” According to the report, over the last few decades, Russia has been the top choice for WNBA players to earn more money during the off-season. 

On average, WNBA players make a maximum annual base salary of $228,094, but not every player gets that amount. It’s reported only three players were top earners this year, not including BG. WNBA players can make more than $1 million when they play overseas.

In the latest update on Brittney, Rolling Stone reports POTUS Joe Biden met with Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner. The meeting marks the first time Biden met with anyone from Griner’s family since the basketball player was detained in February. 

It’s unclear what Biden told Cherelle. She said, “It wasn’t a meeting where the President told me the news that I want to hear.” She continued, “It wasn’t that, but it was one of those still pivotal meetings where… it allowed me to have confidence in what he’s doing right now.”

Cherelle also said BG isn’t “doing well” mentally. Cherelle said, “We’ve had some very disturbing communications about her venting about how she is at that moment, to the point where I was very concerned.” In addition,

“She’s losing it. We’ve reached that amount of days where even a strong person is like, ‘Babe I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to take it.’”

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.’”

Over the summer, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks were in motion. Hopefully, Brittney returns soon! We’ll keep you updated.