WNBA Players Abroad — Andscape

IT’S BECOME A part of the fabric of a WNBA player’s career, one that
could see significant changes next year.

At the conclusion of the WNBA season in September or October, players pack their bags,
grab their passports and board a plane to destinations across the globe where their seasons will begin
anew during the winter months and ending anywhere between February and early May.

During a news conference before the WNBA draft in April, commissioner Cathy Engelbert
said the average career for a WNBA player lasts less than six years. That means utilizing every chance
maximize earning potential – including playing overseas. The WNBA’s supermax salary for the 2022 season
$228,094; a top player like Breanna Stewart earns approximately $1.5 million per season overseas.

There is considerable sacrifice, from the isolation that comes with living in a
where you don’t speak the language to the missed time with friends and family.

This year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced many players in those
countries to leave
. It was later learned that Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner had been
detained since Feb. 17 on charges that she attempted to smuggle vape cartridges containing hashish oil
into Russia.
The U.S. government announced last week that it now considers Griner to be wrongfully
a shift that means the U.S. will not wait for the outcome of her case and will work to negotiate her
return. Griner is scheduled to have a hearing on May 19.

The looming implementation of prioritization, which will push players to put the WNBA first
starting in 2023 or risk fines and suspension, adds another complicated factor for players who play overseas
and seek to maximize their earning potential. Last season, 35 players reported late to camp and 12 missed games at the
start of the season.
Bria Hartley and Kahleah Copper are still competing in the playoffs for their
overseas clubs even as the new WNBA season began May 6.

Andscape and Getty Images collaborated to document the overseas experience of four
WNBA players in Turkey, Spain and the Czech Republic. Getty embedded photographers with the players in
March to capture their daily lives. The players were interviewed in April, reflecting on their
experiences, including navigating foreign countries as Black women and what the future holds for their
professional careers.

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