Sydney – Britney GreinerHighly publicized legal troubles in Russia and the country’s invasion of Ukraine made the WNBA’s top players choose to move their talents elsewhere out of the season.
Over the past few decades, Russia has been the preferred destination for WNBA players to compete due to high salaries that can exceed $1 million and the resources and facilities that teams have provided them.
It all came to an abrupt end.
“Honestly, my time in Russia has been great, but especially with PJ being held unjustly there, no one is going there until she gets home,” she said. Brianna StewartGriner’s Russian teammate who paid the duo millions. “I think people now, you know, want to go abroad and if the money wasn’t that much different, they want to be in a better place.”
Greiner was arrested in February, arrested and later convicted on drug possession charges amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Greiner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison.
Now, Stewart and other WNBA stars, including Jonquil Jones And the Courtney Vanderslot – who also made millions of dollars playing in Russia – are going elsewhere this winter. All three played for Yekaterinburg, the same Russian team as Grenier. This club has 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 have returned this year.
After the World Cup, Stewart will head to Turkey to play for Fenerbahce. Top players can make a few hundred thousand dollars playing in Turkey, much less than their salaries in Russia. Playing in Turkey also allows Stewart to be closer to her wife’s family in Spain.
“You want to have a better lifestyle, a better experience off the field, and continue to appreciate other countries,” Stewart said.
Like Stewart, Vanderslott also did not return to Russia, choosing to play in Hungary, where she was granted citizenship in 2016.
“I’m Hungarian. I thought it would be special because I haven’t played there since I got citizenship,” Vanderslot said.
The 33-year-old goalkeeper said a lot must change before she considers returning to Russia to play even though she has many fond memories of the Russian people.
“The thing about it is that we’ve been treated so well by our club and have built strong relationships with these people, and I’ll never shut the door on this,” she said. “The whole situation with BG makes it really hard to think that it’s safe for anyone to go back there now.”
Jones will join Stewart in Turkey, playing for Mersin. The 6-foot-6 Jones said she would consider returning to Russia if things changed politically and Greiner returned to the United States.
Griner’s status also weighs heavily on the minds of young WNBA players.
Ryan Howard, the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is playing in Italy this winter – her first overseas experience. She said she was careful when deciding where she wanted to play.
“Everyone is going to be a little wary seeing this situation,” she said.
It’s not just American players who no longer go to Russia. Chicago Sky straight ahead Emma MesmanThe star of the Belgian national team, he played in Russia with Stewart, Jones and Vandersloot. It also heads to Turkey in the off-season.
The WNBA is also trying to make staying home in the off-season a better option for players. Commissioner Kathy Engelbert said at the WNBA Finals that top players could make up to $700,000 this year between base salary, marketing agreements and bonus awards. While only a select few players have access to this amount, nearly a dozen players have decided to make league marketing agreements this off-season.