The Phoenix Mercury played its first playoff game last week without its star center, Britney Griner, who sits in a Russian penal colony following her nine-year sentence for inadvertently carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil in her suitcase when she traveled to Russia. Griner has played with the Russian women’s national team for the past seven years.
While there’s talk of a possible prisoner swap that could free Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, there’s some wondering what the WNBA superstar will return to in terms of his professional basketball career.
According Nneka Ogwumikepresident of the WNBA Players Association, the league eagerly awaits Griner’s return home and to the field.
“It’s extremely important to us and we always remind people to unite [as] Americans bring BG home because she is American and part of our family,” Ogwumike said Sunday in a interview with NRP.
And, yes, Griner is still getting his WNBA salary, as it is. In 2020, Griner signed a three-year, $664,544 contract extension with Phoenix.
Griner also earned over $1 million a year in Russia..
No doubt Griner will miss that big payday, but probably not as much as UMMC Ekaterinburg his skills on the pitch will be missed.
The ever-widening pay gap
Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a 2022 report noted that women earned 82 cents for every dollar men earned when comparing all women to all men. But when it comes to professional sports and basketball in particular, the pay scales are so unmatched they’re ridiculous.
The Average NBA Salary for the The 2020-2021 season is $7.5 million but then you have your Hoopsters Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant who can pocket between $40 million and $45 million a year.
Anyway, and there are plenty of not-so-good reasons for the pay disparity, Griner won’t suffer financially if/when/once she’s back home.
Luckily for the three-time US and Olympic gold medalist, the basketball court isn’t the only place she makes money. Griner became the first openly gay athlete to earn a Nike endorsement in 2013.
Nike NKE also sells #42 Griner jerseys for $100 each, according to this advert.
Will athletes still decide to play overseas after the Griner event?
The jury is still out.
“It really is a dilemma, and I know for sure that safety is going to be viewed differently as players reflect on how they make a living playing overseas and what that means for their careers in the game. WNBA,” Ogwumike said.