A number of WNBA all-star players have decided not to return to Russia due to safety concerns following the imprisonment of Brittney Griner.
Russia has been the preferred off-season location for WNBA players due to more generous salaries that can exceed $1,000,000 as well as better resources and amenities.
However, since the highly-publicised legal issues Brittney Griner has faced, other players have concerns about playing there in the winter months.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling with criminal intent, according to a Russian court.
The basketball player was also charged one million rubles, which is roughly £14,400.
Griner was arrested in February this year, detained and then convicted of the charges.
The events of her case took place against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has been in talks with US president Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris about her wife’s case.
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Breanna Stewart, who played alongside Griner for UMMC Ekaterinburg 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.”
“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,” she added.
Steward and several other all-star players will be going to different countries this year.
Nearly 12 WNBA players competed in Russia last year.
This year, none of them will be returning to the region.
Courtney Vandersloot, who plays for Chicago Sky, said that significant changes would have to be made for her to consider going back to Russia.
Vandersloot obtained her Hungarian citizenship in 2016 and will be playing there during the off-season.
The 33-year-old point guard said: “The thing about it is, we were treated so well by our club and made such strong relationships with those people, I would never close the door on that.”
“The whole situation with BG makes it really hard to think that it’s safe for anyone to go back there right now.”