As the WNBA offseason begins, so does a common phenomenon: Players leaving the U.S. to play for foreign teams that pay much more lucrative salaries. Russia has been a common destination — until now.
None of the WNBA players who went to Russia last year will go back this offseason, according to ESPN. Between the country’s detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, players no longer consider it a safe destination.
Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot have all previously played for the same team as Griner — UMMC Ekaterinburg, which reportedly pays players four times the WNBA supermax salary of $228,094.
Instead, Stewart and Jones will head to Turkey, while Vandersloot will go to Hungary. They won’t make as much as they did playing for UMMC Ekat, but believe the tradeoff is worth it.
“Nobody’s going to go [to Russia] until she’s home,” Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart reportedly said of Griner’s situation.
Meanwhile, the WNBA is cracking down on all overseas participation. The league’s collective bargaining agreement now has a “prioritization” clause, meaning players will be penalized for missing WNBA activities for foreign play.