In a recent interview with Diana Taurasi, the greatest woman to ever play the game of basketball said emphatically that UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia — affectionately referred to as Ekat — is the best club in the world.
It takes greatness to recognize greatness, but if Taurasi’s proclamations are insufficient for the dubious, her Phoenix Mercury and Ekat teammate, Brittney Griner, offered some details in a recent interview with the Associated Press that provide eye-widening confirmation.
Having returned to the US after clenching EuroLeague and Russian titles with Ekat, Griner described the treatment women basketball players receive in Russia as being on par with the high-esteemed care NBA players have grown accustomed to receiving from their teams.
“It’s just easy,” Griner said. “They make it easy. The team over there, they make it as easy as you can make it. They take care of everything, car, translator, flying private. It’s nice. It’s like the NBA.”
Unlike their basketball brethren who may take charter flights for granted, Taurasi, Griner and others who play abroad for half the year surely appreciate the luxuries afforded to them there, because conditions in the US could not be farther from those international realities.
WNBA teams are mandated by league policy to fly commercial as a way to ensure an even playing field among the higher-earning teams that could afford charter flights (or gain usage of jets owned by NBA counterparts in their cities) and lower-earning teams that do not have access to these resources.
Anne Donovan, former head coach for the Settle Storm, said commercial flights impact the quality of play. “The way we travel causes fatigue and plays into low scores and hurts the overall product,” said Donovan.
Commercial flights, especially with coach seating, will leave an average-height person with stiff legs. Most WNBA players, just like their male counterparts, are well-above average height, with Griner standing 6-foot-9. Imagine deplaning and having to put those stiff, tired legs to work, running and jumping.
If the WNBA product is low-scoring games by travel-weary athletes, then of course fans will not pay to see the games.
Remarkably, however, the best teams in the league find a way to rise above the obstacles and hoop hard every night. This, after playing half the year abroad to earn as much as possible, to offset WNBA wages that, for middling to lower-level talent, could be considered paltry.
”Got to play year-round,” Griner said. “Got to make it. It can’t be there forever, so you’ve got to make it where you can.”
America professes to be the best nation on earth, but right now it has fallen in the rankings. Disturbingly, citizens have developed either a wicked case of apathy or, more disgustingly, pride in the ills of society that make the rest of the world view the US as a
melting pot boiling cauldron of sewage: the treatment of black and brown people, gender-based pay inequality, gun violence, opiate addiction.
If this country really wants to regain its standing in the world, it has to do better on all of these fronts. That some of the best athletes fly commercial while playing for their US teams but get treated like royalty during their overseas seasons is an embarrassment for which we should all be ashamed.
Yes, it is just basketball. But the treatment of WNBA players at home versus abroad is but one example of the gender inequality and pay inequities that affect women in every profession. These ills can no longer be accepted as right or normal.
Today’s on-court action
Atlanta Dream take on the Connecticut Sun on Friday May 11 at Webster Bank Arena. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. EST and ticket information can be found here.
Other happenings in women’s hoops
Phoenix Mercury coming at the 2018 WNBA season VICIOUS
- WNBA players need shoe lines, too, dammit!
- Sylvia Fowles, Lynx honor women doing great things in Minnesota
- Brilliant take on Becky Hammon and NBA’s hiring bias
- Diana Taurasi is smokinnn’ (Jim Carey voice)
- Brittany Sykes shoots three from beyond half court
- Reminder: “Lean in together” to change the world