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Weeks after Brittney Griner first broke her silence following her 10 months-long wrongful imprisonment in Russia, she opened up about the gender pay gap in professional sports and why WNBA players travel overseas to play during the offseason.

“I can say, for me, I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics. If I make that team, that would be the only time I leave U.S. soil,” Griner said during a press conference posted to Twitter by @NBATV.

“A lot of us go over there to make an income to support our families, to support ourselves,” Griner added.

pay gap brittney griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks with her lawyers Alexander Boykov, right, and Maria Blagovolina at a court room prior to a hearing in the Khimki district court, just outside Moscow, Russia, on July 15, 2022.

Like other WNBA players, Griner played basketball in Russia during the offseason for years to make up for the disproportionate pay rates WNBA players receive compared to their male counterparts. That all changed for her last February, when she mistakenly packed a vape pen containing cannabis oil in her luggage, was arrested and charged for drug trafficking.

Brittney Griner opens up about wrongful imprisonment, gender pay gap in WNBA

She spent nearly a year in a harsh penal colony and faced a 10 year prison sentence amidst an international conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West. The U.S. State Department labeled her “wrongfully imprisoned,” and eventually managed to secure her release.

Amidst criticism that the U.S. should’ve instead freed other wrongfully imprisoned Americans, Griner announced she’s writing a book to detail her experience and advocate for others who still remain imprisoned in foreign countries.

On Thursday, Griner shared her hopes for the future of women’s professional basketball.

In 2020, annual earnings for women in the U.S. were just 82.3% of what men earned. But in the WNBA, the disparity is dozens, sometimes hundreds of times worse.

Only 14 WNBA players make $200,000 or more, compared to tens of millions for the NBA’s top players, according to Spotrac data.

“I hope a lot of these companies start to invest in our craft. Because as you’ll see this season, if you haven’t watched before, we have a really good craft in the WNBA. And it’s a shame that we have to leave our families for holidays. I mean, you’re missing everything being away,” Griner said.

“I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that people go overseas. And that’s why I was there. Hopefully that changes.”

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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