To put it in simplest terms, Brittney Griner should have never been in Russia. She, amongst other WNBA players should have never had to play an additional six months overseas away from their family, in order to supplement their income. But this is the reality for her and many others within the league. According to NPR, “the average NBA base salary this season is about $5.4 million, compared with about $120,600 for the WNBA” and while the WNBA season is notably shorter than the NBA season, “the average annual base salaries mean an NBA player makes 44 times what the average WNBA player makes” (NPR).
Personally, I have very bittersweet feelings when I see all of these companies and brands buying into women’s sports, when the leagues themselves haven’t really made any steps towards “buying into” themselves. The WNBA should arguably be the best women’s basketball league in the world, but it’s not. The players don’t get treated like the all-star athletes that they are – note the Liberty getting fined for chartering flights for their players, or Diana Taurasi having to charter her own flight to be with her wife for the birth of their child during the 2021 playoffs.
You never want to talk about the uncomfortable stuff, but sometimes it’s necessary. Brittney Griner is a woman of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community and this has only furthered the harsh realities of her life if she is found guilty.
But let’s go ahead and call this what it really is, a gender issue. An equal pay issue. As a woman, you can’t help but think if this was a male athlete (even more specifically a cis, white, male athlete) would he be home already? Would he have been used as less of an object to get what you want and instead looked at as more of a human being?
At the end of the day, Brittney is more than just an all-star athlete. She is a daughter, a wife, a teammate, a friend, and an inspiration to so many young women across the world, athlete or not. Brittney has been wrongfully detained since February 17th. That’s 166 days. We’re angry. We’re fed up. We’re scared and frustrated… it’s the fact she shouldn’t have even HAD to be over there. We should all be mad about this. And we should all be as equally scared of the outcome.
Women in sports see disparity all the time, that is nothing new, but now someone’s life could very much be over all because of the age-old tale of a gender pay gap. Seriously, how long have we been talking about this? Watching the thousands of people celebrate the Lionesses’ win over Germany on Sunday was amazing, but it’s hard feeling as if women’s sports are on the rise when Brittney is still in Russia. Still kept from her teammates, her family, and her life, all for less than a gram of hashish oil. If female athletes got paid appropriately, Griner wouldn’t even be in this position.