In March, Britney Griner was arrested in Russia for possession of cannabis oil. That arrest turned into a nine-year prison sentence and was one of the most talked about international stories in 2022 in a battle between Russia and the United States.
While the arrest highlighted cannabis rules and led to a potential prisoner swap between the two countries, it may also highlight the pay disparity between men and women who play in the NBA and WNBA respectively. .
What happened: Griner, who is one of the WNBA’s biggest stars, was arrested in March. The arrest came as Griner attempted to leave the country amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United States wanting all citizens abroad in Russia to return home.
The arrest and subsequent conviction led the United States to request a prisoner exchange to bring Griner back to the country. The potential prisoner swap even led to a comment from the world’s richest man, with Tesla Inc. TSLA CEO Elon Musk saying the US should also release non-violent marijuana offenders from US prisons.
Male and female athletes have rallied behind Griner in hopes of seeing the WNBA star return to the United States.
Griner was the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft after four seasons with Baylor University which included an NCAA championship. Griner landed an endorsement deal with Nike Inc. NKE after being drafted into the WNBA.
Griner has been one of the league’s best players since 2013. Griner has played in 254 WNBA games, averaging 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists. The 2021-22 season saw Griner averaging 20.5 points and a career-high 9.5 rebounds per game.
During the WNBA offseason, Griner played in the Euroleague, including for UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia last season. Last season with UMMC, Griner averaged 15.2 points, 8 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. Griner ranked sixth in the league in points per game last season.
Related Link: Russia to America: Keep Calm and We’ll Talk Prisoner Swap or Brittney Griner Stays in Penal Colony
Why it matters: After his arrest, some wondered why Griner was in Russia to begin with, since the United States had issued a no-fly warning earlier in the year. Griner is one of several WNBA players playing in Europe during the WNBA off-season.
The reason for playing in Russia or other European countries has to do with the low salaries paid to WNBA athletes, which pale in comparison to those of men who play in the National Basketball Association.
The league’s minimum salary for NBA players in the 2022-23 season is $1.8 million, more than the five highest-paid WNBA players combined.
james lebron of the Los Angeles Lakers is expected to earn $44.5 million for the 2022-23 NBA season, ranking fourth in the league, behind only Steph Curry, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.
The highest paid WNBA players are Diana Taurasi, Jewel Loyd and Breanna Stewart, who all earn $228,094 a year. WNBA players selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft are paid between $66,306 and $72,141 per season. Undrafted players are paid $60,471 per year.
Griner is paid $227,900 a year.
The 12 WNBA teams together have salaries of $16.5 million. James and 88 other NBA players will be paid more for the 2022-23 NBA season than the entire WNBA, putting the pay difference into perspective.
There are, of course, elements that work against the WNBA vs. NBA salary argument, including more fans, higher attendance, and a huge difference in rights revenue. television media.
The WNBA has agreements with the media The Walt Disney Company SAY ABC and ESPN, Paramount Global Inc. PARAPARA A CBS, NBATV, Twitter Inc. TWTRFacebook Watch from Metaplatforms META and Amazon Prime Video from Amazon.com Inc. AMZN.
The deal with ESPN is worth around $25 million a year. The NBA receives $2.6 billion a year in deals with ESPN and Turner Sports and could be in line for a huge raise in the next media rights deal.
An article from The Athletic who interviewed the commissioner of the WNBA Cathy Engelbert listed the WNBA and its 12 teams valued at $1 billion combined, with the average WNBA team valued at $43.75 million. A recent valuation ranking from Forbes listed the lowest NBA team value at $1.5 billion.
Strong television viewership last season, along with a $75 million funding round for the league that included NBA owners and Nike, could help boost revenue and future media rights deals for the WNBA. Additional revenue and attention to Griner and other players playing overseas could stress WNBA salaries going forward.
Photo: Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org and Erik Drost on flickr