Cherelle Griner last spoke with her wife right before she boarded the flight to Russia which ultimately led to her arrest. The WNBA superstar was arrested at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 after she allegedly traveled with hashish oil in her luggage.
“It’s the irony of all of it,” said Cherelle in an interview with ESPN’s Angela Rye. “She didn’t want to go back. She just said she was so exhausted from always having to go overseas.”
Since 2014, Brittney Griner has traveled to play with the European powerhouse club UMMC Ekaterinburg alongside fellow WNBA players during the offseason.
Other players include Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and Emma Meesseman. Half of the players in the WNBA travel overseas during the winter season to make up for their drastically low salaries from the league.
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While Griner will earn the league maximum of an annual salary of $227,900 for this season, the Phoenix Mercury center would have to stay in the states during the winter season in order to potentially make $500,000 through bonuses and marketing opportunities.
Griner’s decision to head to Europe each off season may have to do with the fact that she allegedly earns a salary of $1 million each season with the UMMC Ekaterinburg league.
Following a loss to the Chicago Sky during the 2021 WNBA Finals, Griner expressed her disdain for having to head to Russia after a full season in the US.
“I’m not really looking forward to it, honestly,” said the 31-year-old at the time.” Leaving and having to leave my family and go overseas again. But [I’m] definitely going over this off-season, and [I’ll] just take it year-by-year.”
Prior to her trek back to Russia, Cherelle told her wife that this could be her last year having to travel back and forth overseas.
“‘You don’t have to go back anymore,'” Cherelle recalls telling her wife. “I was like, ‘We’ll figure something else out when it comes to pay,’ because obviously there is a tremendous difference in the amount of money she makes when she’s playing in the WNBA versus when she goes overseas, and so that’s why it’s been something that she had to do.”