opinion | What does Britney Grenier’s income say about women’s basketball

Britney Greiner, WNBA and eight times The Olympic gold medalist and two-medal winner remains in prison in Russia, nearly 200 days after she was arrested on February 17 for possession of less than a gram of cannabis oil.

Despite global calls for Ms. Greiner’s release, she may be there for a while. On August 4, Ms. Greiner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury team, was sentenced to nine years in prison. While efforts are underway to exchange Arms dealer Victor Bout for the release of Ms Greiner and Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia, said Russian officials say this will only be possible after all legal avenues have been exhausted, a process that could take months.

But what Ms. Greiner was doing in Russia in the first place reveals a disturbing truth: For more than a decade, Russian oligarchs valued American sports star women more than American CEOs. Mrs. Greiner, like Nearly 70 of her fellow WNBA athletes, she boosted her income by playing abroad during the WNBA off-season. While American fans support the WNBA – filling arenas, wearing T-shirts, following players on social media – in many ways US executives don’t.

Stanislav Markus, a University of South Carolina business professor who studies oligarchy, said. “Until the last geopolitical confrontation, it was tacitly encouraged and generously funded by the oligarchy who often owned the teams.”

The economic aspect of the US for batteries is very poor. The top male college basketball stars might pursue multimillion-dollar jobs in NBA Women who similar talent pay differently. Max basic salary for the WNBA for the 2022 season It was about $228,000. Stephen Curry’s salary was the highest paid player in the NBA last season Nearly $46 millionmeaning that the highest-paid man was earning nearly 200 times as much as his female counterpart in a similar job.

This is not a glass ceiling – it is the stratosphere. In one of the most public workplaces in the world.

Enter the few.

“They want to win,” Mike Kound, who has played abroad and now represents about 60 female basketball players as an agent, said of the owners of the Russian teams. Mr. Cond said that throughout his career, he has put close to 20 players in basketball for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a long-standing Russian Premier League team based in Yekaterinburg that has had Ms. Griner on its roster since mid-2010. Mr. Cond said: There were private planes, business class tickets, cars and chauffeurs, luxury apartments, and salaries double, sometimes triple what they would be anywhere else.” They wanted to send the message: We can do it. And that made it a destination.”

UMMC Ekaterinburg is controlled by Andrei Kozitsyn and Iskander Makhmudov, the founding billionaire of the mining company. The team was built into a position of strength in part by Shabtai von Kalmanowicz, a convicted KGB spy who was murdered in a contract murder in 2009.

In addition to their salaries, Russian teams for decades have provided places for players trying to hone their skills, both in the development of athletes and in the off-season, according to Katia Clanet, a professional basketball player from France. Ms. Clanet’s mother, an Olympian who played for the Russian national team, trained in Russia, and Ms. Clanet trained there as a teenager and maintains dual citizenship.

“For a long time Russia was the land of basketball,” said Ms. Clanet. “The quality of the coaches was good, more technical.”

One common refrain from explaining the American basketball wage gap is that the WNBA is a newer league than the NBA, which was founded in 1996, compared to the NBA’s genesis in the 1940s.

However, by analyzing wage figures between the NBA and the WNBA in the same period of their life cycles, professors Nola Agha of the University of San Francisco and David Berry of Southern Utah University found that WNBA players earned lower salaries even after they counted. Douri’s life.

“It can sometimes explain the systems in place that cause completely different results,” Professor Agha said in an interview. She added, “You have a century of people who are not used to watching women’s sports because in many ways it has been underestimated, shut down and questioned. Then we move to the current time frame and you will see a lack of investment.”

The real cash injection into sports has come from television. WNBA TV Deal With ESPN Pays About 25 million dollars per year, compared to the total NBA It raised $24 billion from its deals with ESPN and Turner SportsThat concludes after the 2024-25 season.

Also consider the craft space where people watch women’s sports. there is only one – One! – a sports bar in the country, perhaps in the world, dedicated exclusively to women’s sports, Sports Bra in Portland, Oregon.

The limited TV supply in the US not only makes it difficult for fans to follow or find the games in the first place, but also increases the pay gap. Smaller TV contracts mean smaller salaries for players. Creating a mass culture around women’s sports cannot happen overnight and needs effort from fans, leagues, sponsors, and stakeholders in the media.

The opportunity to invest more American money and interest cannot come more quickly to WNBA players, as the pipeline of Russian money into the sport is likely to shrink.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ms. Greiner’s team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, along with other Russian teams, was suspended by the Euroleague. While some players will Hopping on planes in the coming weeks To compete in countries like Spain and Turkey, it’s hard to see how any of the WNBA stars will be competing in Russia anytime soon.

However, in some ways, the volatile landscape is nothing new for WNBA players, who have been no strangers to dealing with controversy, be it Dedicate their season to Brianna Taylor or Help overturn a seat in the US Senate.

No wonder they bring vigor to Mrs. Greiner’s case, Wearing “We Are BG” T-shirts She tweets at the White House daily. From detention, Ms. Greiner herself wrote a letter to President Biden.

Now the fans have to pay attention.

Marie Bellon is the producer of the upcoming HBO documentary The Athletic documentary about the Bishop Sycamore High School football scandal and the author of “The Monopolists” and “The Kevin Show.” She previously covered sports for The Times.

The Times newspaper is committed to publishing Variety of letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your opinion on this or any of our articles. Here are some Tips. Here is our email: letter@nytimes.com.

Follow the New York Times opinion section on FacebookAnd the Twitter (@NYTopinion) And the Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.