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NBA insider Marc Stein reveals that Russian basketball teams are trying to lure American players under contract back with the promise of bonuses.
When war broke out in Ukraine, professional basketball players from the United States were tweeting to let fans know that they safely evacuated the country. In Russia, many players remained as they watched headlines with horror.
WNBA players spending their offseason in Russia were encouraged to leave the country, which is how Brittney Griner became imprisoned by Russian police for alleged drug possession at a Russian airport.
Although the U.S. Embassy in Russia issued a Level 4 travel advisory in late February and encouraged American athletes to consider “departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” Russian teams are already working on ways to bring American stars back to play.
A later update from Stein noted that although Russia is currently banned from FIBA participation, Russian league play is set to continue in the absence of some of their biggest international stars.
Russian basketball hopes to continue as they entice American athletes to continue
While Russian basketball may want Americans to return, at the moment, this doesn’t seem to be a realistic possibility. On March 1, the United States banned Russian flights from entering American airspace, and the current travel advisory from the U.S. State Department notes that “U.S. citizens should depart Russia immediately.”
As Stein notes, it might be difficult to entice any American players to risk traveling to Russia while Brittney Griner remains detained by Russian authorities and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Russia has been able to woo WNBA players for years by promising wealth they are unable to earn in the United States, but there may not be any amount of money that could convince an NBA or WNBA player to consider playing in a country that is terrorizing civilians in Ukraine and detaining one of the biggest stars in the WNBA.