Wnba, Russia, Basketball discussed on Today, Explained

Today, Explained


And maybe a little showtime. The two handed finish she is like nobody who has ever played and then she is dominated every level she's ever been. She's also become kind of a cultural icon as well for her sexuality for her struggles with mental health issues. She's become someone who really is more than an athlete to the people who follow her. She's talked about the struggles she had growing up about standing out the way she did. Always bigger, deeper voice, flat chest, big feet, and I remember I forgot the girl's name, but she came up to me and she was with her friends. She was like, look, she's not a girl and she literally grabbed my chest and like had like patted me like that. I was like, look, I was so embarrassed. I mean, one thing about her is there's never been a room that she's walked into where she was not the absolute center of attention. She's 6 foot 9, so her whole life has been people staring at her, sort of picking her apart and she has talked about the anger and frustration that built up and what a release basketball became for her. She was the best high school player in the country. She got a sign with Baylor, won a national title there. All American, the number one overall draft pick in the WNBA when she went professional, perennial, all star. I mean, what stands out is her size and she plays a sort of physical dominant game, both defensively and offensively that stand out, but she also she dunks in games, which is not common in the WNBA. Or just roll perfectly slam dunk Brittany grinder you know, you watch her and it's just a skill in her game that's beyond just the sheer size she has. So it's fair to say that she's one of the best players in the WNBA. One of the best players in basketball history. What is one of the best players in basketball history doing in Russia? The women who play in the WNBA, which is the highest level of basketball played in that sport, can only make a few $100,000 at the most. There's a hard salary cap for what they can make. There are limited marketing opportunities for women who play professional basketball, but in Russia, like as in a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East, she's able to make more than a $1 million playing for one of the teams there, that's owned by oligarchs. So there's this long history of WNBA players making something that'd be a good salary for most people, but really low for someone of their skill. Going to Russia, turkey, where they make much higher salaries. And so she has been spending her off season, making three, four, sometimes 5 times the salary she could make in the U.S. by playing in Russia. I didn't become aware of it until my junior and senior year in college and I started to realize that the WNBA doesn't make as much money as people assume as much as we assume. I didn't know coming in as a rookie. It was only going to make $40,000. By the way, it's not just the money. It's the way they were treated over there. I mean, they get the full treatment they get private jets. Every need is attended to, you feel less like an employee and more like a star. And you can see why that would be attractive. So it sounds like there hasn't been any question about safety concerns. I don't recall anybody really raising safety concerns. And I think one reason is when you are going over there under the protection of an oligarch, it is the equivalent of walking into a neighborhood when the local crime boss says, you know, so and so is okay. No one's going to touch you. And that really is how the oligarch system works in Russia. So let's talk about how Brittany griner ends up being detained in Russia. Where does that story start? That starts February 17th when she flew over there as she has many times and landed at the airport outside of Moscow. You watching the video that customs officials released and she's just going through the baggage check like normal and then she gets pulled out of the line. What happens after that is in dispute. Authorities say griner was taken into custody at the Moscow airport in February. Customs agents allegedly found vapes with liquid cannabis or hash oil in her carry on which is illegal substance in Russia. She actually has not said one way or the other or nor have a representatives. And from that time on, she was in custody, but there was no attention to it in this country. Russia didn't announce it, they kept it very low profiling. Her representatives were almost immediately in contact with the U.S. State Department. And the advice that the State Department gave them was look, you need to keep a low profile right now. There are two directions this can go. Russia has nominally at least a criminal justice system. It is, I think, quite demonstrably corrupt. And subject to the rule of one man, Vladimir Putin and his government, but there is one and it does operate. And until they have some idea of how she's being treated, it's better for you to keep a low profile because the other path is if she becomes too valuable. If there's a ton of attention to her, well then she's a potential asset to Putin and his government for something that they want to trade for. And that was not the road you wanted to be on. They followed the State Department's advice and kept a very low profile until about three weeks later in early March, Russian customs officials did announce it in this country. We heard about it. I think first The New York Times, that she had been detained. And then there was this immediate response over here. Wait a second. How can one of the world's best athletes have been in detention for more than two weeks and nobody knew about it? That was intentional. They really wanted to keep a low profile. She's got lawyers over there trying to see, can we work this out through the criminal justice system? And then when you had a number of members of Congress and prominent athletes, you know, raising the issue of, if this were a male athlete, if this was LeBron James or somebody, people would be going out of their minds. But in this one case, the people who support Brittany griner, lament the inequities in women's sports in this country, but here's where to their advantage because they felt like, okay, let's just, let's keep quiet as long as we can. See if we can work this out because if she becomes essentially a hostage to Putin, then you're in a whole new world. As I recall, because this was happening so close to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it felt like Russia maybe was trying to get a little leverage on the United States. Potentially, by detaining this star athlete for having hashish oil on her. It's entirely possible, and people who follow Russia immediately thought of the fact that there is a well established history of Russian law enforcement planning drugs on people in order to arrest them. This is what they do. And even though the war hadn't started the invasion hadn't started yet in February 17th, they knew it was coming. So for those inclined to think this was a setup, the pieces were there. There's Russia's history of doing that. The fact that she's high profile, easily identifiable, the fact that she's also a 6 foot 9 black lesbian, which in Putin's Russia is a warning to all good Russian mothers look what will happen to your children if you liberalize like the west, they knew that the motivation was there and that she was potentially a chit to trade for something if they wanted it. But there are also a number of people who said, well, wait a second. They're not making a big deal out of this. They arrested her. It's entirely possible that she did do it. And just because they're politicizing it or they may be willing to trade for her doesn't mean that necessarily she didn't actually commit the crime. She was she was accused of, who knows. But what's become clear to the U.S. government at some point is that Russia is open for business. And that they don't need to wait a year for her to go to trial. You can hold someone pretrial detention for a year over.

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