“It’s Our No. 1 Priority” | Brittney Griner Detained Until May 19, But Is It More Lucrative To Play For A Warring Nation?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The most glaring issue in professional sports, with a raging war between Russia and Ukraine, is Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia. The country recently announced that she would be held until May 19.

Local authorities detained the decorated WNBA player after vape cartridges allegedly filled with hashish oil were discovered in her luggage.

“The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the U.S. citizen Griner until May 19,” the court ruling said, according to Tass, the state news agency.

Griner’s Russian Return

Griner was returning to Russia as a player for UMMC Ekaterinburg. The Russian league’s season started and went on a two-week break for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments in early February. Now she is working on getting released.

The movement behind the scenes involves Griner’s family, the WNBA, and world leaders. Her detention comes at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden has issued economic sanctions against Russia.

Putin Energy

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made more threatening statements as the war progresses.

“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors, and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement,” said Putin.

Not the most inviting energy.

The American Strategy

The U.S. has been actively involved in Griner’s release.

According to reports, the U.S. State Department provided an update recently during a press briefing.

Working For Brittney

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tweeted, “Free Brittney.”

Griner is an American champion, two Olympic gold medal winner, a national championship winner at Baylor, and a seven-time All-Star. The U.S. doing everything it can to make sure her stay is safe and that she is released is expected.

“Everyone’s getting the strategy of say less and push more privately behind the scenes,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said to the AP. “It’s the strategy you get from the State Department and administration. It’s our No. 1 priority in talking with her agent and strategists.”

The Financial Gap

With the WNBA season opening on May 6, it calls for a look at the pay disparity between the U.S. and a league in Russia.

According to reports, Griner’s tenure in Russia has been lucrative, as she earned over $1 million per season. That’s more than quadruple her WNBA salary, reportedly.

She has played there for the last seven years, seasonally every winter as a result. Europe has always been an outlet for professional basketball players and a lucrative way to stay in shape. The women’s game has boosted their income in ways many won’t feel as a pro in the WNBA.

The Dilemma

Will WNBA players still go to certain European countries that are in crisis for work? Or sacrifice and stay home or go to a conflict-free country?

With other players like Lucky Jones, who made it back to his wife and four children with a riveting tale of tension in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the lure of the continuity of income is hard to pass up.

Ultimately, until the pay disparity between the men’s game and even between countries for the women’s game is more balanced, probably so.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.