Several WNBA stars are refusing to play in Russia this season due to the Brittney Griner situation, but one former WNBA player says she can’t pass up a premium contract to play overseas.
Last week Breanna Stewart and several other WNBA stars announced their intention to boycott the Russian league due to Griner’s detention.
Top WNBA players are finding other places to compete this winter, not wanting to go back to Russia after the arrest and conviction of Brittney Griner on drug possession charges and the country's invasion of Ukraine. https://t.co/rjknzWsQG2
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 20, 2022
Stewart spoke to the Associated Press about her decision not to return to Russia during the WNBA offseason,
“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,” said Stewart, who played with Griner in Russia. “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.”
Despite the boycott from several WNBA players, Alex Bentley, who last played in the WNBA in 2019, will play in Russia after signing a contract extension last December before the Griner situation. Bentley considers herself ” really good friends” with Griner but wasn’t offered a contract to play in the WNBA and needs to make money.
Alex Bentley is "a really good friend" of Brittney Griner's, but Griner sitting in prison isn't keeping Bentley from playing in Russia to earn a living.
— OutKick (@Outkick) September 23, 2022
Via NY Times
Bentley’s agent, Boris Lelchitski, said in an email that Bentley signed a one-year contract extension with UMMC Yekaterinburg in December and “had to make a difficult decision” to play in Russia. He said she did not have any offers from W.N.B.A. teams the past two seasons.
“This is her opportunity to build her financial security,” he said.
In a phone interview, Lelchitski said Bentley was “really good friends” with Griner and hoped that she would be freed from prison soon. He said Bentley felt comfortable returning to Russia because she has dual citizenship and plays as a European, and because there are many American men in Russia playing basketball.
As of now, it’s unclear when Griner’s situation will resolve itself so it’s understandable why someone like Bentley, who doesn’t have many options to play pro basketball, chose to play in Russia for another season.