Russia has been a lucrative safe haven for WNBA players to make a lot of money in the offseason to supplement their WNBA income.
While Russia was a good place to work, no one wants to end up in a Russian jail like Brittney Griner, so they are passing on opportunities this season.
Brittney Griner’s highly publicized legal woes in Russia and the country’s invasion of Ukraine has the top WNBA players opting to take their talents elsewhere this offseason.
For the past few decades, Russia has been the preferred offseason destination for WNBA players to compete because of the high salaries that can exceed $1 million and the resources and amenities teams offered them.
That all has come to an abrupt end.
“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,” said Breanna Stewart, a Griner teammate on the Russian team that paid the duo millions. “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.”
Griner was arrested in February, then detained and later convicted on drug possession charges amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Griner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison.
Now, Stewart and other WNBA All-Stars, including Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot — who also have made millions of dollars playing in Russia — are going elsewhere this winter. All three played for Ekaterinburg, the same Russian team as Griner. That club won five EuroLeague titles in the past eight seasons and has been dominant for nearly two decades with former greats DeLisha Milton Jones and Diana Taurasi playing there.
Nearly a dozen WNBA players competed in Russia last winter and none of them are heading back this year.
Do you wonder if the basketball team there will pressure the government to release Griner so they can get their players back?
Flip the page for when Griner might come home.