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Breanna Stewart, More WNBA Stars Won't Play in Russia amid Brittney Griner Detainment

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 20, 2022

Brittney Griner (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

None of the WNBA players who played in Russia last offseason will return to the country amid the continued detainment of Brittney Griner.

Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press reported Tuesday the group of about a dozen players, which includes Griner's former UMMC Ekaterinburg teammates Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot, will opt to play elsewhere in Europe this winter.

"Honestly my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still wrongfully detained there, nobody's going to go there until she's home," Stewart said. “I think that, you know, now, people want to go overseas and if the money is not much different, they want to be in a better place."

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after authorities found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She's been detained for 215 days. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison, a verdict that's been appealed.

WNBA players compete overseas during the offseason for supplemental income, and Russia can offer lucrative deals upwards of $1 million. By comparison, the top salaries in the WNBA are just over $228,000, per Spotrac.

Vandersloot told Feinberg she isn't ruling out a future return to the Russian Premier League, but she'll wait for a resolution to the Griner situation.

"The thing about it is, we were treated so well by our club and made such strong relationships with those people, I would never close the door on that," she said. "The whole situation with BG makes it really hard to think that it's safe for anyone to go back there right now."

Jones, who's heading to Turkey for the offseason, told the AP she'd also consider going back to Russia in future years.

On Friday, United States President Joe Biden met with Griner's wife, Cherelle, and Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of fellow Russian detainee Paul Whelan, to discuss the continued efforts to secure their release.

"The President held the meetings to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. "He asked after the wellbeing of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time."

An offer was made by the U.S. of Griner and Whelan in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, but National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN in July that Russia responded with a "bad faith attempt" at a counteroffer.

Meanwhile, WNBA players including Stewart have continued to make daily calls for Griner's release.

Breanna Stewart @breannastewart

It has been 214 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. <a href="https://twitter.com/WhiteHouse?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WhiteHouse</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/POTUS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@potus</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/VP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@vp</a> , we are paying attention and we are counting on you. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreBG</a>

The 2022 WNBA season ended Sunday with the Las Vegas Aces defeating the Connecticut Sun in the Finals.

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