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WNBA players say life in Russia was lucrative but lonely – ABC News

For the elite athletes in the WNBA, spending the offseason playing in Russia can mean earning more money than they can make back home — sometimes even two or three times as much.

But those who have done that also describe th…….

For the elite athletes in the WNBA, spending the offseason playing in Russia can mean earning more money than they can make back home — sometimes even two or three times as much.

But those who have done that also describe the loneliness of being away from family and friends, of struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, and of living in a place with only a few hours of sunlight in the winter and temperatures well below freezing.

Brittney Griner is one of those players who went to Russia in recent years to earn extra money. For the two-time Olympian, however, it has turned into a prolonged nightmare.

Since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February, she has been detained by police after they reported finding vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Still in jail, she is awaiting trial next month on charges that could bring up to 10 years in prison.

Her arrest came at a time of heightened political tensions over Ukraine. Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine and remains at war.

A half-dozen American players contacted by The Associated Press shared their experiences on playing in Russia. Although none found themselves in the same situation as Griner, they described difficulties such as isolation and boredom, apart from basketball.

“Playing there was not easy because the lifestyle and the way of living is a lot different than what you experience in other places in Europe and America,” said DeLisha Milton-Jones, one of the first marquee American players to play in Russia in the early 2000s.

“The extremes of the weather — it’s pitch black dark at 5 p.m. I had to wear my big jacket warming up sometimes since it was minus-40 degrees outside,” said Milton-Jones, who played for UMKC Ekaterinburg — the same team as Griner.

The former All-American at Florida, WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks said the decision to play in Russia was simply a “business one.”

In the early 2000s, top WNBA players could earn about $125,000 a year as part of a marketing deal with the league. Today, the salary for elite players is about $500,000. By playing in Russia, those players can earn another $1 million to $1.5 million.

Players say the Russian teams try to make them as comfortable as possible, including sometimes providing drivers and translators. The clubs also give players extra days off during breaks, knowing they have longer travel back to the U.S., if they go home.

Apartments provided by the teams are comparable with what the players are accustomed to in the WNBA, including Western-style kitchens and laundry facilities, and they also have access to streaming services and …….

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/wnba-players-life-russia-lucrative-lonely-84122573

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