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WNBA players ‘scared’ in Turkey, contemplate leaving

Days ago, WNBA players found themselves in a club on lockdown, as an attack took place next door as the New Year was being brought in. Now some players are speaking up, on the fear of being overseas with the increased violence occurring around the world.

Chicago Sky v New York Liberty Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When news hit earlier this week about the terrorist attack in Turkey, WNBA players and fans were concerned for the players in the country and overseas in general. Some WNBA players were next door to the attack that took 39 lives as.

All American players walked away safe from the situation which is great news yet at the same time, player’s attention was definitely grabbed by the circumstances that occurred.

Shavonte Zellous, a player for the New York Liberty, has been playing in Turkey during the offseason of the WNBA for the past eight seasons. Via a phone interview with the Associated Press, Zellous voiced she now has concerned following the latest attack in Istanbul.

“It’s been an honor to play there, but this year now it’s getting fearful and scary with stuff that’s been happening. Coming into the season you heard things were going on and some players were like, ‘I don’t know if I want to continue playing over there.'”

“I was never worried before about bombings, shootings or anything in the nature of violence,” Zellous said. “Now it’s going on; it’s like, ‘Do I really want to stay in this place? What if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with friends when someone opens fire?’ Every WNBA player is scared.”

Zellous went on to explain it is not just American players who are afraid, but her Turkish teammates as well, out of “fear of being in the wrong place.”

“Literally our life now is go to the gym, go to the store, go home,” Zellous said. “That’s not how I want to live.”

Also in her interview, Zellous informed the AP that there is a group chat text message between all WNBA players in her particular country to inform one another of what is going on and a hot topic is rather players will stay in the country. Personally, “she’s hoping to get out of her contract with Besiktas (team in Istanbul).”

For another player, Sugar Rodgers, it took a bombing occurring near where she was playing two hours from the Syrian border, to get her attention. According to the AP, within a month of being in Turkey, she returned to America.

“I heard about a bombing that killed 17 people about two hours away and right there I was like I don’t want to stay,” Rodgers said. “The government shut off all lines of communication, so I couldn’t get on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp. It was pretty scary not to be able to communicate with anyone.”

While there are players who want to leave, there is a voice speaking for the opposite side of leaving: staying in Turkey.

Through an email response with the Associated Press, San Antonio player Danielle Robinson shared Turkey is a good fit for her to play -- despite there still being fears.

“I put a lot of thought into my decision to play in Turkey, and it was the right choice for me. The benefits outweighed the risk. I was ready to play and wanted to play at a high level, and those were things I could control by coming here.

Of course, there are fears. I think there are fears any time you leave the comfort of home, but there is fear at home too. I just leave home having faith that if I make good choices, the percentages are in my favor that everything will be okay.”

It's a two-sided story on rather players will leave or not, but it really comes down to personal preference. Another wrench thrown into the equation is if the club a player is on in Turkey (or any foreign team in general) will allow a player to get out of their contract that has been signed.

For some players, it is their contract if the U.S. government recommends that a country is not safe for Americans, they can opt out.