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Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug charges in a Russian court on August 4 and was sentenced to nine years in prison. While Russia is blatantly using her as a political pawn, that isn’t stopping all of Griner’s fellow WNBA players and a really good friend from playing in the country this season.
The WNBA and its players have stood firmly behind Griner since her initial arrest in February of 2022. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have used the typical course of action of putting out heartfelt statements and proceeding to do next nothing to help Griner, an American citizen. A prisoner swap has also reportedly been discussed.
Despite everyone in Griner’s corner disavowing Russia, plus the country’s invasion of Ukraine, money still talks.
The overwhelming majority of WNBA players earn less than $250,000 per season. In fact, Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces is the only player in the league with an average salary over $250k, she makes $252,000. Griner, one of the best players in the league, was set to make $227,000 next season.
With this being the case, many WNBA players take their talents overseas during the WNBA offseason to earn more money. Russia is a country that can pay four times what the WNBA pays, which is exactly why Griner has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia since 2014.
‘Really Good Friend’ Of Brittney Griner Still Playing In Russia
Given Griner’s imprisonment, most WNBA players have refrained from signing with a Russian team this offseason, but not former WNBA player Alex Bentley.
Bentley’s agent told The New York Times that her client is “really good friends” with Griner, but she also has to look out for herself financially.
The 31-year-old Bentley last played in the WNBA in 2019 having not been able to sign a contract in the WNBA the past two seasons. Seeing as how she wants to continue to play basketball, and earn a more than livable wage, Bentley signed a one-year contract extension with UMMC Yekaterinburg.
Unlike other players refusing to play in Russia this season, Bentley clearly realizes her presence on a Russian basketball court isn’t going to change the fact that Griner is looking at nine years in prison.
While some may label Bentley’s actions as ‘betraying her good friend’ and maybe even ‘betraying the United States,’ she has to look out for herself.
Bentley playing in Russia proves she’s both a capitalist and a realist, simply looking for the biggest payday.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris