Most sports fans knew of Brittney Griner because she’s one of the WNBA’s biggest stars, figuratively and literally. However, the 6’9″ center has been introduced to millions of people around the world because of her ongoing detainment in Russia.
Authorities arrested Griner at a Moscow airport on February 17th after finding a vape pen in her luggage that contained small amounts of hashish oil. Ever since, her ongoing criminal case has captured our nation’s attention for months. Celebrities and athletes alike have called for her release so she could return home to the U.S., but to no avail.
Yet why was Brittney Griner, a WNBA champion and 7-time All-Star, playing basketball in Russia in the first place? The short answer – money.
Before the 2020-21 season, Brittney Griner signed a 3-year deal worth $664,544 to remain with the Phoenix Mercury. According to Spotrac, an online sports contracts resource, Griner’s annual average salary is $221,515, That’s almost double the WNBA’s average yearly salary of around $120,000. While endorsements and sponsorship deals can sweeten the pot, some foreign leagues offer much higher contracts.
Therefore players like Brittney Griner head overseas during the WNBA’s offseason to ply their trade for more money. Since 2014, Griner has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League. According to AZ Central’s Jeff Metcalfe, she reportedly earns $1 million per season playing in Russia. That’s more than four times her WNBA salary, so you can’t blame her for seeking better financial opportunities abroad.
When combining her WNBA and RPL salaries, along with various marketing opportunities, Griner makes a solid salary. It may not live up to NBA contracts, but it still puts her in a higher tax bracket than most Americans. In fact, for those interested in knowing her net worth, the basketball star is worth $5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Latest Updates On Brittney Griner’s Ongoing Detainment in Russia
As the Ukraine-Russia conflict began, Brittney Griner attempted to exit the country where she was playing professional basketball. But as mentioned, Russian authorities arrested her for having a vape pen with her possessions at the airport.
Two weeks ago, Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession while at trial. However, a guilty plea does not bring trials to an end in Russia. Instead, her defense team is now presenting arguments in hopes of obtaining a reduced punishment.
Multiple reports suggest that her defense entered a guilty plea to expedite court proceedings. They have to get through the trial before any other deals can be made. Further reports are suggesting that Griner’s freedom could be obtained in a prisoner exchange.
Allegedly, Russian officials want to trade Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The “Merchant of Death,” as he’s known, was the inspiration for the 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War. In 2011, a U.S. court convicted Bout for multiple crimes and handed him a 25-year sentence in prison.
U.S. officials seem to have mixed feelings about the exchange with some supporting the idea and others against it. The first step is going through Russia’s trial process, which so far has involved several delays. How this plays out, only time will tell. Outsider will keep you posted.