By Ella Ceron
Brittney Griner doesn’t plan on playing in overseas basketball leagues again, even though that’s how many in the Women’s National Basketball Association supplement their pay.
“The whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap,” said Griner in her first press conference since returning to the US after being detained in Russia for 10 months on drug charges. “A lot of us go over there to make income to support our families, to support ourselves. I don’t knock any player that wants to go overseas and make a little bit extra money.”
Under their current contract, WNBA players can make a maximum of $234,936 during the 2023 season. That’s four times less than the minimum salary NBA players pulled in last season — and nowhere near the multimillion-dollar contracts the biggest male stars nab. Overseas gigs for women can bring in million dollar paydays.
Griner supplemented her WNBA pay check by playing in Russia during the off season. After returning to the US in December, she signed a one year contract for $165,100, according to ESPN.
A spokesperson for the WNBA said in a statement that prize pool money, bonuses and marketing deals can allow players to make more than $750,000 per year. “As we build on the league’s business transformation — where corporate partnerships and media rights deals play a major part in — compensation will continue to grow and the player experience will continue to improve,” the spokesperson said.
Griner said she hopes advertisers and sponsors support the league to help improve player pay.
“I hope a lot of these companies start to invest in our craft because we have a really good craft,” she said. “It’s a shame that we have to leave our families for holidays, I mean, you’re missing everything being away.”
The WNBA is expected to bring in as much as $200 million in combined league and team revenue this year, around double 2019 figures. Yet player pay has not kept up with the growing popularity of the sport. The NBA, by comparison, projected $10 billion in revenue for the 2021-2022 season.
“As much as I would love to pay my light bill for the love of the game, I can’t,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest reason for people going overseas and that’s why I was there. I’m hoping that changes though.”
(Corrects update in 5th paragraph with statement from the WNBA.)
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