Brittney Griner says she will never play basketball overseas again after being held in a Russian jail for nearly ten months. However, the WNBA player did share one reason she would change her mind.
The 32-year-old shared her thoughts during a nearly hour-long press conference Thursday. The meeting was streamed on the official Phoenix Mercury YouTube page.
Griner Speaks To Media For The First Time Since Her Release From Russian Detainment In December
It was the first time the WNBA star had spoken to the media since her release from Russian detainment in December.
“If I make that team, that would be the only time I would leave the U.S. soil, and that’s just to represent the USA,” the Phoenix Mercury star revealed.
“I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics.”
Brittney Griner on whether she plans to go overseas to play basketball in the future:
“I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics.” pic.twitter.com/ZUI2LFi0yX
— Khristina Williams (@Khristina) April 27, 2023
Griner, Like Many Other WNBA Players, Were Forced To Play Abroad Due To “Pay Gap,” She Says
Griner found herself playing for the Russian women’s basketball team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, despite being a WNBA superstar. The far-east league reportedly paid her much better than any team stateside.
Unfortunately, she added that many other WNBA players also choose to play abroad, citing the pay gap.
“I’ll say this, the whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap,” Griner said. “A lot of us go over there to make an income, to support our families, to support ourselves.”
In the WNBA, she commands a six-figure salary instead of the approximately $1.5 million she typically earns in Russia, according to ESPN.
The supermax salary for 2022 was $228,094, with players allowed the opportunity to make more in bonuses and marketing deals.
The average salary for a player in the WNBA for the 2022 season was $102,751 among 151 athletes, NBC Connecticut reports. Conversely, the average NBA player’s salary is $9,662,447 for the 2022-23 season, per Gaimday.com.
“So I don’t knock any player that wants to go overseas and make a little bit extra money. I’m hoping that our league continues to grow, and with as many people in here right now covering this, I hope you continue, like I said, to cover our league, bring exposure to us.”
Making Sacrifices, Missing Friends And Family Another Reason To Play At Home, Per Griner
However, as much as she was paid to play abroad, Griner said she was forced to make many sacrifices and missed friends and family while she was away.
“I mean, you’re missing everything being away,” she said. “But at the same time, as much as I would love to pay my light bill with the love of the game, I can’t. So I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons people are still going overseas, and that’s why I was there. So hopefully that changes.”
RELATED: Brittney Griner Re-Signs To WNBA Phoenix Mercury Team With 1-Year $165K Contract
Brittney Griner said she expects to see the same kind of coverage of the Mercury’s season as she’s receiving today. pic.twitter.com/uRm0mZKtwK
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) April 27, 2023
In Aug. 2022, a Russian court found Brittney Griner guilty of attempted drug smuggling and possession. According to CNN, the guilty verdict says Brittney had criminal intent when she attempted to enter the country with less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Before the conviction, Russian prosecutors asked the court to consider giving the WNBA star 9.5 years in their closing argument. Shortly after news of the verdict broke, Griner’s lawyers confirmed the Russian court obliged the prosecutors’ request.
As a result, she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, per The New York Times. Additionally, the judge fined Brittney about $16,300 — one million rubles.
However, her sentence was essentially commuted on Dec. 8, 2022, after Russia and the United States conducted a prisoner exchange, trading Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer.