A chilling booking photo of WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner holding up a piece of paper with her name on it was released by Russian authorities. It's not clear where she was when the photo was taken but Griner was arrested by Russian airport customs agents in February for allegedly having hash oil in her suitcase.
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This practice of female WNBA athletes playing abroad begs a huge question: why do they do it? The WNBA’s playing season is only four months, which is not much time for players to hone, display and get paid for their skills.
In terms of the latter and perhaps the most glaring is that WNBA players make far, far, far (yes, I said that three times) less money than their male counterparts. No surprise there but the salary gap is still jarring.
For example, Kevin Durant made $39.1 million in salary during the 2020-21 NBA season, the most of any player on the U.S. men's roster, according to Spotrac.
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Meanwhile, four outstanding female players — Brittney Griner, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith share the lead for highest-paid on the women's roster, at $221,500.
Another question: In that Brittney Griner has been playing basketball in Russia for the past seven years during her off-season from the Phoenix Mercury, why did Russia suddenly decide to arrest and detain her?
The family of Trevor Reed, a retired Marine from Texas who's been locked up in Russia since 2019, said they are "highly skeptical" of the allegations surrounding Griner, because they've seen the Russians fabricate criminal cases, reported TMZ. A Trevor family spokesperson said the charges could be "totally bogus."
And one more question: Could Griner’s arrest have everything to do with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the fact that Putin is and will likely to continue to lord his policies over the world, Washington and the Biden administration as sanctions and economic pressure on Russia increase daily?
And Brittney Griner, all six foot nine inches of her, walked right into the morass of this expanding conflict. That being the case, we should not be calling her detention a drug bust as some media are.
Perhaps Griner, who up until now has been more than welcome in Russia, is now a hostage in a conflict that has geopolitical implications that go far beyond her basketball skills and what she was carrying in her suitcase.
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