WNBA Players Get The Bag In Russia, But Angel McCoughtry Won’t Hoop There Again After Brittney Griner Release

Angel Mccoughtry and 12 other WNBA players not returning to Russia after Brittney Griner release
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

WNBA free agent Angel McCoughtry says that the Brittney Griner situation has made Russia a non-starter for her when it comes to playing hoops. Griner was freed from Russian prison in a prisoner exchange on Thursday. But the long and harrowing ordeal has made Russia a radioactive place for some American female hoopers. McCoughtry described her position during an interview with TMZ Sports on Friday:

“I mean, it’s tough on us cause Russia was one of the places where we made the most money. I was making my WNBA salary in one month in Russia. My whole salary,” said McCoughtry. “I think girls are gonna go elsewhere and play, probably…No, I would not go back. I would not go back.”

WNBA Star Angel McCoughtry Not Returning To Russia 

Griner was held in a Russian prison for nearly 10 months for transporting vaping cartridges containing less than a gram of hashish oil. Russia’s use of Griner as a pawn in a high stakes game of political chess with the United States has made many of the world’s best women hoopers a bit wary.

 

WNBA Players Get The Bag In Russia 

The challenge is Russia has been the preferred offseason destination for WNBA players to due to the high salaries. Players often exceed $1 million per season and have high-end resources and amenities provided by the team.

“We still have Spain and Istanbul, Turkey, different places, but, it definitely takes a toll on our game cause Russia, that was a place that had a lot of money for women to play, so it definitely hurts our game,” McCoughtry continued.

Two-time WNBA champion and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier league with Griner for a few seasons and won the league championship in 2021.

“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,” Stewart said to CNBC in September. “You want to have a better lifestyle, a better off-the-court experience, and just continue to appreciate other countries.”

About a dozen WNBA players who played in Russia last winter have not returned for this current season.

If the WNBA offered its players a larger percentage of the revenue, you might not have as many players going overseas in the offseason. But it’s no guarantee. Picking up an extra $2 million in the offseason while you make even a $1 million during the WNBA season is worth it.

WNBA Pay Disparity: Why Do Players Go To Russia To Play In Offseason?

In the NBA, players receive 51 percent of the basketball related income (BRI). That includes the league’s broadcast deal, jersey sales, sponsorships etc. In the WNBA, players only receive 20 percent of the BRI.

Las Vegas Aces Kelsey Plum recently discussed the pay disparity.

“We’re not asking to get paid what the men get paid,” Plum told The Residency Pod.
“We’re asking to get paid the same percentage of revenue shared. There is a big misunderstanding here. Let me be clear: I don’t think I should make as much money as LeBron. But for example, in Mandalay Bay, they sell my jersey and I don’t get a dime,” she said.

The WNBA has worked to change the pay structure for its players and has made improvements over the year. But the league needs to hit revenue targets and secure sponsorships and a more lucrative television or streaming deal for the players to really see an improved BRI split.