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WNBA Players Caught In Russia Conflict

Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

As the military conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, a number of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players fulfilling contracts overseas have had to make decisions quickly to remain safe.

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Many WNBA players spend the offseason playing in Europe, where they can earn significantly higher salaries than they do stateside.

Some of those teams are in Western Europe, but quite a few well-supported teams exist in the East, such as six-time EuroLeague champion UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia.


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Late last week, both the WNBA and the WNBA Players Association checked in on their players in proximity to the conflict.

“The few WNBA players who were competing this offseason in Ukraine are no longer in the country,” the WNBA said in a statement. “The league has also been in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

At the time, the league declined to elaborate on whether they had encouraged players in Russia to leave the country, and the union said it had urged athletes to make plans based on safety advisories.

Meanwhile…

More recently, agents of players in Russia have been vocal about getting their clients out of the region.

Longtime WNBA agent Mike Cound told ESPN on Sunday that he had multiple clients trying to get flights out of Russia. Their estimation is not that anyone is in immediate danger, but there is concern that the situation could change quickly.
If players are unable to secure a way out, Cound said he plans to help them “hunker down and stay safe” until they’re able to do so.

Players currently in Russia have asked to remain anonymous for their safety, but teams like Ekaterinburg have a roster full of WNBA standouts such as Brittney Griner, Jonquel Jones, Allie Quigley, and Courtney Vandersloot, and the EuroLeague playoffs begin next week.

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