Brittney Griner Reveals She Went To Russia Due To Her Low Salary As A Professional Basketball Player

by Gee NY
Image Credit: ShutterStock

Brittney Griner, the celebrated WNBA athlete, has disclosed that financial reasons drove her to play basketball in Russia, where she landed at the Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow on Feb. 17, 2022.

Griner sought the opportunity to play for the Russian Premiere League’s UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season, aiming to earn a significantly higher income than her WNBA salary offered.

“The whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap,” Griner stated during her first press conference after her release from prison, as reported by Fortune. “A lot of us go over there to make an income to support our families, to support ourselves.”

Griner anticipated earning nearly $1 million while playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in 2022, a stark contrast to her WNBA salary, which stood at under $130,000 on average, according to NPR. The salary disparity between the WNBA and NBA is significant, with top NBA players earning millions compared to WNBA players’ much lower earnings.

“We earn about 250 times less than NBA players and have a hard cap on our salaries,” Griner remarked, as cited by The Cut. “In the WNBA that year I made around $220,000. Overseas, I earned a million plus. That pay gap is why I was in Russia in the first place.”

Griner’s stint in Russia took a tumultuous turn when she was detained at the airport for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Despite her intention to seek better financial prospects, Griner found herself embroiled in a legal ordeal that resulted in her serving 10 months of a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony.

Reflecting on her experience, Griner has resolved to refrain from playing basketball overseas in the future, unless it involves representing her country at the Olympics.

“I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics,” she affirmed, per Fortune. “If I make the team, that would be the only time I would leave U.S. soil.”

Griner’s revelation gives credence to the oft-cited financial challenges faced by women athletes in professional basketball.

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