Five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry says she has no plans to return to Russia in the offseason following Brittney Griner’s arrest, despite the fact that she says she made her entire WNBA salary in one month playing there.
In an interview with TMZ Sports on Thursday, the two-time Olympic gold medalist said she played in Russia for three years, describing it as “probably the hardest place I had to play.”
Like many WNBA players who go overseas to supplement their salary, McCoughtry says Griner’s arrest complicates the situation with Russia being one of the countries that pays women’s basketball the most.
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“It’s tough on us because Russia was one of the places where we made the most money. I was making my WNBA salary in one month in Russia. My whole salary. I think girls are going to go elsewhere and play, probably.”
When asked if she would return to Russia, McCoughtry told the outlet no.
“No, I would not go back. I would not go back. At this point, no.”
Griner was released from a Russian penal colony on Thursday after nearly 10-months in custody. Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it.
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WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert addressed concerns about players going overseas in a press conference Thursday. She highlighted the league’s development over the last few years aimed at providing more opportunities for players in the U.S. but noted that the decision to play internationally is ultimately at the players’ discretion.
“I’ve been a big advocate for letting the players do what they want to do with their offseason,” Engelbert said. “This is their time to figure out what they want to do. But we’re also chipping away at the economic model and growing the league.”
“Our players are going to do what’s best for them in consultation with their families and their agents. And we’re certainly here to help them think through the security risks and things like that. But I think you’re seeing players take advantage of other opportunities, and we’re certainly going to provide them more opportunities to do things with the league in the offseason and keep the momentum going around the great play that they put on the court every year.”
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McCoughtry echoed that sentiment, adding that she believes Griner will make her return to the WNBA in 2023.
“Our season doesn’t start until May, so we have another five or six months. I think by that time she’ll have herself together to be ready to play – because everyone’s going to want to watch her play. It’s going to be amazing.”
“The women’s sport is growing so rapidly, we got more fans than ever before, more TV coverage so now’s the time for us to see her dunking again and smiling on that court.