The WNBA’s Missing Star

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star Game will be missing one of its biggest stars, Brittney Griner.  A seven-time All-Star, Griner was detained by Russian authorities in February for having vape cartridges containing marijuana concentrate hashish oil, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in a penal colony

Griner, like many WNBA players, travels abroad in the offseason to earn additional money.  These players’ incomes, although much higher than those of average American workers, occur over a short career averaging just five years.  Consequently, WNBA players try to earn as much money as they can, while they can.  In 2018, 62.5 percent of players on that year’s WNBA roster played overseas during the offseason.  Brittney Griner’s wrongful detainment in Russia highlights one of the perils of playing overseas.

Nevertheless, Griner makes $227,900 per season in the WNBA compared to $1,000,000 per season playing in Russia.  If the extra money could be earned here in the U.S., these athletes would not need to sign contracts in countries like Russia. This issue is even more important with the new collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA) prioritization policy set to begin in 2023.  Under these new rules, WNBA players who miss the start of their team’s training camp will face potential fines and possible disqualification from the WNBA season.

As All-Star festivities begin this weekend, many thoughts and prayers will be with Griner as she awaits her fate in the face of possibly serving 10 years in a Russian prison.  As a tribute, she has been selected as an honorary All-Star Game starter.  It’s a small, yet powerful show of solidarity.  Still, missing one of its biggest stars is not great for a league that is amidst making a major investment to expand its market.  There is hope this will lead to higher pay and better benefits for the players, but only time will tell.  In the meantime, average players in the WNBA only make 1.6 cents for every dollar their counterparts in the NBA make.

Although her situation is extremely heartbreaking and unfortunate, it may shine a spotlight on the issues the league and these women face.  The players made some notable progress under the new CBA; however, they are still looking to receive a true 50/50 revenue-sharing agreement similar to the NBA revenue-sharing model.  The WNBA had a 20/80 revenue-sharing model as recently as 2019.  Sometimes progress is slow, and for Griner, it may prove too slow.  Let’s just hope for the best for our fellow American, Brittney Griner.

 Is this the proper term?  “Wrongful” in what sense?  Is she being detained even though she did not violate Russian law?  Or because she is a celebrity and is really being held for political reasons?  Would an average American citizen be simply allowed to leave under the same circumstances?

Is there a single camp for the whole WNBA?  Or does each team have its own camp?  If the latter, maybe change to “miss the start of their team’s training camp”

Take care,